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Russia's case on Georgia territories: Like Kosovo or not?

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Closer examination of Kosovo events

The new Russian legal shift comes as Moscow's ardently stated rhetoric and emotion over the West's acceptance of Kosovo statehood is being more closely examined.

The dispute is quiet but bitter: Moscow has long made a strong legal case for Serbia's territorial integrity and sovereignty. US and EU diplomats say the Kosovo case is unique, an "accommodation" that emerged out of a long and often reluctant process involving specific moral and strategic circumstances – resulting in a new principle of "humanitarian intervention."

"In Kosovo, the West decided to make the rules on what humanitarian intervention meant, said that it had the power to do so, and decided not to stand by legal arguments in the middle of a genocide," argues James Hooper, a former US diplomat who worked with Gen. Wesley Clark in Kosovo.

Russia's new position is partly seen as helping smooth relations with Belgrade, whose claims on Kosovo have been left in the lurch by Moscow's recognition of separtists territories in the Caucasus, say diplomats. After a decade of ardent legal purity on Serbia's territorial integrity at the UN and other global groupings, Russia has suddenly changed those rules in Georgia – putting Serbia in the awkward position of having to choose between Russia and Europe, that has untold consequences for the new Serbian government.

Difference between Kosovo, Georgia

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