Russia tried to block Kosovo's independence today during an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council, saying it is deeply concerned about the fate of Serbs in the province.
The council began meeting in emergency session at the request of Russia, which argues that today's declaration by Kosovo's parliament in Pristina that it is an independent nation violates the council's orders and other UN rules.
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow was "highly concerned" about Kosovo's efforts to seek international recognition as an independent nation. He said the Security Council would consider "the situation which has been created by an attempt by Pristina to declare unilateral independence of Kosovo".
The 15-member council remains deeply divided on the future of Kosovo, with Russia backing its close ally Serbia and calling for more negotiations, while Britain, France and other European Union members are supporting the Kosovo Albanians.
Kosovo's two million population is 90% ethnic Albanian, mainly secular Muslims, who do not want to remain part of Serbia, a predominantly Christian Orthodox nation.
"Our concern is for the safety of the Serbs and other ethnic minorities in Kosovo," Churkin said. "We'll strongly warn against any attempts at repressive measures, should Serbs in Kosovo decide not to comply with this unilateral proclamation of independence."
Kosovo hopes for international recognition that could come tomorrow when European Union ministers meet in Brussels.
Russia, which has veto power on the council, insists Kosovo is a Security Council issue - not an EU issue - and argues that Kosovo's move sets a dangerous precedent for separatist groups globally.
The Security Council's president scheduled the emergency "consultations" today after Russian and Serbian diplomats sent letters requesting such talks.
During the closed-door session, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to brief the council members on the situation in Kosovo.
A more formal meeting, with a possible vote by the council, has been scheduled for tomorrow.
"We'll insist that it should be an open meeting, and we expect that the president of Serbia will participate," Churkin said.