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    Russia protests Kosovo steering group establishment

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    Russia's Foreign Ministry protested Monday the establishment of a 15-member steering committee on Kosovo comprising countries backing Kosovo's independence.

    MOSCOW, March 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Foreign Ministry protested Monday the establishment of a 15-member steering committee on Kosovo comprising countries backing Kosovo's independence.

    "We believe the creation of the International Steering Group for Kosovo is out of line with resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council and Kosovo settlement principles coordinated by the international community," spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said.

    Resolution 1244 affirms Serbia's and Kosovo's territorial integrity.

    "The group only represents the interests of countries that have recognized Kosovo's independence or who are ready to do so, and that's why it does not express the opinion of the whole international community," the ministry said.

    Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since NATO bombings ended a conflict between Serb and Albanian forces in 1999. The Albanian-dominated province unilaterally declared independence on February 17.

    Kosovo's independence has been recognized by the United States, Australia, Japan and major European countries, but Serbia and Russia have reacted angrily, with Serbia, which sees Kosovo as its historical heartland, recalling its ambassadors from those countries.

    Moscow argues that Kosovo's independence will trigger more secessions and that it will block it from joining the UN.

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