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Moscow insists that the international peacekeeping force in Kosovo operates strictly
Moscow insists that the international peacekeeping force in Kosovo operates strictly under the UN mandate, and that it shows "impartiality" and "objectivity," Russia's envoy to NATO said on Wednesday.

The international peacekeeping force (KFOR) has been present in Kosovo since June 1999, where NATO currently leads some 15,000 troops. The North Atlantic military alliance has said the robust UN-mandated KFOR presence has been crucial in maintaining security.

"Impartiality, objectivity and strict compliance with the UN mandate is all that we demand," Dmitry Rogozin said, adding that Russia was in possession of "disturbing" information suggesting that "the Kosovo force could go outside its mandate."

He said any "freewheeling" on matters of security in the province was "inadmissible," while Russia reserved the right to act "in accordance with the situation."

Prior to the declaration of independence by the Serbian province on February 17, the European Union approved sending a 2,000-strong civilian mission to Kosovo to replace the UN mission, which has been deployed there since the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 ended a conflict between ethnic Albanians and Serb forces in the region. Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since the end of this conflict.

The UN Secretary General earlier said he had been informed by the EU of the plans for the mission, and that he had no objections, but he also said that the UN Mission in Kosovo, or UNMIK, would continue to operate under Resolution 1244 as the legal framework for its mandate.

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 a number of countries that have acknowledged the 'world's newest state.'

Moscow argues that recognition of Kosovo's sovereignty will trigger more declarations of unilateral independence by secessionist-minded regions. It has also pledged to block Kosovo from joining the UN.


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