Moscow Fears Kosovo Election Outcome Could Spark Renewed Ethnic Violence
Russia expressed fears Tuesday that the results of Saturday's municipal elections in Kosovo could lead to renewed attacks by Albanian extremists on ethnic Serbs.
A "real danger exists that the municipal elections will intensify de facto ethnic cleansing conducted by Albanian extremists," a foreign ministry statement said.
Ibrahim Rugova's moderate nationalist Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) won Kosovo's first election since last year's NATO bombing campaign, taking 58.13 percent of the vote.
Kosovo is still legally a province of Yugoslavia but has been run by a UN mission since a NATO-led peacekeeping force arrived in the province in June last year.
The LDK came in ahead in 21 of Kosovo's 30 municipalities and won control of all five regional capitals, including the provincial capital Pristina, results released at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe center in Pristina showed.
However, the Russian ministry questioned whether the elections were as fair as Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ambassador Daan Everts said in his assessment.
The ministry stated that it had "emphasized several times that the necessary conditions did not yet exist in Kosovo to organize free and democratic elections, in accordance with international and OSCE norms."
"The Serb community in Kosovo was excluded from this 'democratic process,' as were the Turkish minority and representatives of other ethnic minorities," the ministry stated.
Serbs boycotted the election and Moscow maintains this made the poll undemocratic.
Russia was also critical that the election campaign revolved around the question of Kosovo independence.
On Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin and Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica issued a joint statement that Kosovo must remain a part of a multi-ethnic Yugoslavia.
More than 170,000 Serbs have fled Kosovo out of fear of attacks by Albanians since peace-keeping forces entered the province in June 1999, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees -- MOSCOW (AFP)
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