Kosovar Albanians Declare Independence From Serbia

As of the beginning of 1991, the Socialist Federated Republic of Yugoslavia was an internationally recognized state, which consisted of six republics (Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia) and 2 autonomous regions within Serbia–Vojvodina and Kosovo. As of today, with Kosovo declaring its independence from Serbia, the only one of those eight political units that is not an independent state is Vojvodina. The New York Times reports that the euphoric Albanians showed their gratitude to the United States for the development:

kosovo_independence.jpgPRISTINA, Kosovo — The former Serbian province of Kosovo declared independence on Sunday, sending tens of thousands of euphoric ethnic Albanians into the streets of this war-torn capital to celebrate the end of a long and bloody struggle for national self-determination.

The declaration marks the final dismemberment in the 17-year dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. It also brings to a dramatic climax a showdown between the West — which argues that the former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s brutal subjugation of Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians cost Serbia its authority to rule the territory — and Belgrade and its ally Moscow, which counter that Kosovo’s independence declaration is a reckless breach of international law that will spur other secessionist movements across the world.

Ethnic Albanians from across the world streamed into Pristina, braving freezing temperatures and heavy snow, to dance in frenzied jubilation. Beating drums and waiving Albanian flags, they chanted “Independence! Independence! We are free at last!” while an enormous birthday cake was installed on Pristina’s main boulevard.

An outpouring of adulation for the United States — Kosovo’s staunchest ally in its quest for independence and the architect of NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign against Mr. Milosevic — was evident everywhere. Thousands of revelers unfurled giant American flags, carried posters of former President Bill Clinton, and chanted “Thank You U.S.A.!” and “God Bless America.”

Meanwhile, balkaninsight.org reports on an anti-U.S. counter-rally in the streets of the Serbian capital of Belgrade:

17 February 2008 Belgrade _ Hundreds of protesters blocked the Embassy of the United States in downtown Belgrade on Sunday, less than an hour after Kosovo’s leaders unilaterally declared the province’s independence from Serbia.

Protesters in Belgrade pelted the embassy building and police with stones and torches. At least one policeman was carried away in an ambulance. The number of injuries in the crowd could not be verified immediately.

Serbian police in full riot gear had cordoned off the embassy and managed to push protestors away from the embassy. The crowed scattered in nearby streets, but its numbers continued to grow.

Waving Serbian flags, burning signal torches and chanting nationalist and anti-American slogans, the crowd had initially tried to block both entrances to the embassy compound, which stretches over two apartment blocks on Kneza Milosa Street.

“We want to show we hate Yanks and Shiptars [a pejorative for Albanian],” a young protester who identified himself only as Dejan said, using a derogatory Serbian term for Kosovo Albanians.

A good source for views from within Serbia is the B92 broadcast network, whch reports that Serbia has annulled Kosovo’s declaration of independence, judging it to be an illegal act:

BELGRADE — PM Vojislav Koštunica addressed the nation today as ethnic Albanians unilaterally declared Kosovo’s independence.

It a televised address from the seat of the Serbian government in Belgrade, Koštunica rejected this act as illegal, and declared it null and void.

“Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of a false state is the final act of a policy that started with the NATO aggression against Serbia in 1999,” the prime minister said.

“Never has the truth about why Serbia was savagely destroyed by NATO bombs been more clear,” he continued, and added that “NATO’s military interests lie behind the proclamation of this false state.”

From bd at Richmond, here’s a link to reporting by MSNBC on Kosovo.

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