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Russia: Kosovo's final status could serve as precedent for breakaway Georgian regions

MOSCOW-Russia views the decision on Kosovo's future as a precedent for determining the final status of two breakaway regions in the Caucasus Mountain nation of Georgia, a news agency reported Thursday.

Moscow has opposed giving ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo independence from Serbia, a country that is a staunch Russian ally, and has sought to link the issue with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two regions that broke away from Georgian government control in the 1990s.

Russia has long backed Abkhazia and South Ossetia, granting many of its residents Russian citizenship and incurring the ire of Georgia, a U.S. ally that is seeking to bring the regions back under government control.

Russia plans to raise the issue of the Kosovo status talks during next month's summit of leaders from the Group of 8 major industrialized nations, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said.

Kosovo "will serve as a precedent, particularly in the search for a path for resolution of the so-called 'frozen conflicts'" in the former Soviet Union," he was quoted as saying.

The United Nations, along with Russia and five other nations, is sponsoring talks on the future of Kosovo, which has been under U.N. administration and NATO peacekeepers since the NATO military intervention in 1999.

The statement echoed comments made earlier this month by President Vladimir Putin, who warned that the international community should not encourage separatist territorial claims, saying a dangerous precedent could trigger a chain reaction.

The statement also came just days after a group of U.S. senators and congressmen called on leaders attending the July 15-17 summit in St. Petersburg to rebuke Russia for actions "inconsistent with G-8 democratic norms," leading to speculation that Russia might take aim at Georgia if Washington and other Western nations try to raise Russia's record on democracy or other issues during the summit.

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