A Kosovo Serb activist Zlatibor Djordjevic told media he expected the number of requests would reach a few hundred thousand. Djordjevic said 21,000 petitions for citizenship have been sent to the Russian embassy in Belgrade, addressed to Russian parliament, president Dmitry Medvedev and prime minister Vladimir Putin.
Belgrade doesn’t recognize Kosovo independence, declared by majority Albanian population. An estimated 200,000 Serbs have fled Kosovo since it was put under United Nations control in 1999 and at least one thousand were killed according to Serbian sources.
The remaining 100,000 Kosovo Serbs feel they have been deserted by pro-European government of president Boris Tadic and not offered adequate protection for the sake of Serbia’s joining the European Union, which Tadic has proclaimed as his main goal.
Kosovo has been recognized by more than 80 countries, including the United States and 22 out of 27 EU members. Brussels has tied Serbia’s bid for membership to establishing “good neighborly relations” with the state of Kosovo.
Russia is a traditional ally of Serbia and has blocked a resolution on Kosovo independence in the UN Security Council.
Djordjevic said Serbs were seeking “protection and freedom which Serbia can’t provide them. We have tried everything for our state to protect us, but it has failed and is pushing us into a state which Serbs don’t recognize,” he said.
Russian embassy official Oleg Buldakov said the request was passed on to competent authorities in Moscow, but pointed out it was a “very complex issue and many conditions have to be fulfilled in order to obtain Russian citizenship”.
Russian media, however, speculated Moscow was unlikely to answer positively the to Serb requests because it would put it in confrontation with NATO, whose peacekeepers are stationed in Kosovo, and with Belgrade which may see it as interference in internal affairs.