Kosovo Declares Independence!

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THE PLANK FEBRUARY 17, 2008

Kosovo Declares Independence!

There will surely be lots of interesting commentary on Kosovo declaring independence from Serbia, but in the meantime I found this story in Saturday's New York Times fascinating. As the Times' brilliant Russia correspondent, C.J. Chivers, reports:

Russia
held a high-level meeting with the leaders of two breakaway republics
in Georgia on Friday, and vowed to increase its support for the
separatists if Kosovo declared its independence and was recognized by
the West.

The
meeting, coupled with vocal warnings in Russia’s Parliament that it
would react strongly to a declaration of independence by Kosovo,
threatened to push the Kremlin and the West into a fresh and
potentially volatile standoff over the status of separatist territories
in Georgia.

Nothing too surprising here, but I had not seen this reported before:

The military, diplomatic and public relations campaigns in the region have all the while been layered with intrigue.

One
of the most prominent fighters in the Abkhaz war against Georgia, for
example, was Shamil Basayev, the Chechen separatist and terrorist who
became Russia’s most wanted man.

Georgian
officials have said that Mr. Basayev’s career as a terrorist began as a
proxy in Abkhazia for Russia’s secret services, and that his presence
in the war was a mark of Kremlin sponsorship and duplicity.

Basayev
was one of the principals behind the attack on a Russian school in Beslan four years ago,
which killed almost 400 people (Chivers' Esquire article on the subject remains one of the best pieces of journalism of the last several years). And yet now the Russian government is
supporting an insurgency Basayev once helped lead (he was killed two
years ago).

--Isaac Chotiner

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