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    Russia has no plans to back independence for Abkhazia, S.Ossetia

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    Russia has never declared its readiness to recognize the sovereignty of ex-Soviet breakaway provinces if Kosovo's independence is declared, Russia's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

    MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has never declared its readiness to recognize the sovereignty of ex-Soviet breakaway provinces if Kosovo's independence is declared, Russia's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

    "Russia's leadership has never stated that after Kosovo we would recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia," Sergei Lavrov told journalists.

    "It is deeply ingrained in the minds of many that Russia has a firm position as regards Kosovo, warning that this will be a precedent, while hoping in its heart of hearts that this will happen in order to follow it up with a recognition [of the independence] of all and sundry in the neighborhood," he said, adding that "nothing could be further from a true understanding of Russia's stance."

    He also said Russia, which has had its own separatist problems, most notably in the Chechen Republic, was interested in maintaining stability and preventing separatist trends and violations of international law.

    However, Lavrov went on, "A precedent will be created not because we want it but because it will be objectively created ... If someone is permitted to do something, many others will expect similar treatment."

    Russia has long been against any unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence, a position its envoy to the troika of international mediators on Kosovo reiterated last December in one of many recent Russian comments making clear the country's opposition.

    "A unilateral declaration of independence would be in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. In this event, Russia would demand a revocation and nullification of the decision," Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko said.

    Voices in Russia's State Duma, the country's lower house of parliament, are now calling for recognition of the sovereignty of Georgia's separatist republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia if Kosovo is recognized as independent by the international community.

    Abkhazia and South Ossetia are de facto independent republics striving to split from the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia and join Russia.

    "If this [recognition of Kosovo's independence] happens, we will have to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia," a Just Russia MP said on Wednesday.

    The Albanian-dominated Serbian province of Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia ended a conflict between Albanian and Serb forces in 1999.

    Most Western states back the volatile area's drive for independence, and recently agreed that Kosovo's status would be determined by the European Union and NATO. Russia insists that Belgrade and Pristina continue to seek a compromise.

    Kosovo's recently elected prime minister, Hashim Thaci, earlier said Pristina's independence was an accomplished fact and would be declared as soon as the United States and the European Union were ready to recognize it.

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