Russia’s right to recognize the Donbass “republics” relied on the Kosovo precedent, President Vladimir Putin told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday in Moscow.
Russia recognized the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, two Ukrainian towns with a Russian majority, after it launched a military aggression against Ukraine this year.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, after the latter waged a brutal war against its former province in 1998-1999, killed over ten thousand Albanian civilians and displaced 90 percent of the whole population.
Putin argued that the decision of the UN International Court of Justice recognizing Kosovo’s right to exercise self-determination meant that the two entities in Ukraine could also declare independence and be recognized by other states “since the precedent was set”.
Putin also reportedly further pushed the UN official during their meeting on Tuesday, saying: “Right? Do you agree with this?”
He replied to Guterres’ note that the UN did not recognize Kosovo by highlighting the UN court’s decision on Kosovo: “But the court did recognize it,” and “If this precedent was set, the republics of Donbass could do the same.”
“Very many countries of the world did this, including our opponents in the West, in respect of Kosovo. […] That’s a fact that very many states of the West recognized it as an independent state. We did the same in respect of the republics of Donbass,” Putin said, adding that Russia has provided the two self-declared republics with military assistance following their plea for help against Ukraine.
Putin’s use of Kosovo as precedent first for its annexation of Crimea in 2014, and later for recognizing the two Donbass “republics” relies on false similarities drawn between the cases.
NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 to force it out of Kosovo following a war waged by Serbia, numerous massacres against civilians, 13 thousand people killed and nearly all Kosovo population displaced. NATO didn’t occupy neither Serbia nor Kosovo. Russian troops took over Crimea and the Donbass region without any comparable violence against Russian minorities there.
Putin’s use of Kosovo as an alleged precedent is a slap on Serbia, whose main foreign policy pillar against Kosovo recognition relies on Russia’s diplomatic power and its UN Security Council veto.
Read more: Don’t Compare Russia’s War to NATO in Kosovo