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'Kosovo's freedom is worth clash with Russia'
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Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence on Sunday has sparked major diplomatic divisions around the world, and sporadic violence in the Balkans.

Serb nationalists destroyed two checkpoints on Kosovo's new border with Serbia yesterday, causing Nato troops to intervene for the first time since the split from Belgrade.

But a senior diplomatic source in Pristina said that "Europe has stood up and been counted" by backing Kosovo's independence.

It had done so despite "Russian muscle flexing" as Moscow sought to maintain influence in the Balkans and support its key ally in the region, Serbia. The Western official said: "We wanted to do it [work towards Kosovo's independence] with Russian co-operation. But the Russians chose not to. But it is worth sorting out Kosovo even so."

He said the risk of renewed, widespread violence in the Balkans would "indisputably" have been higher had Kosovo's status remained in limbo.

While Serbia and Kosovo could both join the European Union, he said Serbia was "adopting positions that make it difficult for them to head down that road".

He said they were "digging a hole", referring to punitive measures Serbia was taking against its former province, including charging Kosovo's leaders with treason.

Those indicted include Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, who yesterday welcomed the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, on an impromptu visit to Kosovo.

Mr Solana said Kosovo and the EU were "good friends" despite five EU states, including Spain, opposing Kosovo's independence.

He encouraged the nation to work to improve its feeble economy and battered infrastructure.

"The joy that has been shown on the streets of Pristina and all over Kosovo has now to be converted into constructive and positive energy, to move towards the development of society," he said.

However, Nato troops yesterday had to rush to the United Nations-controlled border posts at Banja and Jarinje on Kosovo's northern border with Serbia after Serb mobs set fire to offices and vehicles.

UN police at the posts - all ethnic Serbs themselves - were moved to safety by a police unit as the crowds moved in. "About 1,000 Serbs arrived from Kosovo and another 150 from Serbia greeted each other and broke out into huge violence," said one police officer.

Nato troops restored order after 45 minutes and there were no injuries.

For a second day, thousands of Serbs marched to a bridge that separates them from Albanian communities in Kosovo's divided town of Mitrovica, chanting slogans against the new state.

Mr Thaci described the violence as "isolated incidents".

"They will not undermine the dignified celebrations of independence," he said.

By Harry de Quetteville in Pristina

Source >  Telegraph

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