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news 18 Mar 14

Putin Says Kosovo Precedent Justifies Crimea Secession

Russian President likens Crimean secession from Ukraine to Kosovo’s secession from Serbia - and accuses the West of rewriting its own rule book.

Bojana Barlovac BIRN Belgrade

Addressing the Russian parliament on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to ratify a treaty that would make Crimea part of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin compared Crimea's secession from Ukraine to Kosovo's secession from Serbia.

The Russian President spoke after 96.8 per cent of people who voted on Sunday in a referendum in Crimea backed calls to join the Russian Federation.

Washington has condemned the vote as illegal and maintains that Kosovo was a unique case that does not justify other moves towards independence by break-away regions.

Putin, however, said his “Western partners" created the Kosovo precedent with their own hands.

"In a situation absolutely the same as the one in Crimea they [the West] recognized Kosovo’s secession from Serbia as legitimate, arguing that no permission from a country’s central authority for a unilateral declaration of independence is necessary,” Putin said.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. So far, Kosovo has been recognized by 107 out of 193 UN member states, including the US and most EU members.

However, Russia has strongly opposed Kosovo's independence, citing the need to uphold the territorial integrity of Serbia.

According to Putin, the West has double standards by saying that the case of Kosovo was exceptional.

“It’s a kind of baffling, primitive and blatant cynicism. You can’t just twist things to fit your interests, and call something white on one day and black on the next one,” Putin said.

The Russian President also dismissed allegations that Russia is violating international law with its actions in Ukraine.

He said Russia was defending international law and its institutions, while Western countries have undermined them.

“In the practical application of policies, our Western partners – the United States first and foremost – prefer to be guided not by international law, but by the right of strength.

"They believe in their exceptionalism, that they are allowed to decide on the fate of the world, that they are always right,” Putin said.

Putin referred to the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, which took place without a UN Security Council mandate and to actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

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