From Voices From Russia:
Fr Vsevolod Chaplin says that the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo is a blow to international law
Moscow, 18 February 2008 (Interfax):
Albanians in Kosovo need to remember that you cannot build a peaceful and happy life at the expense of others, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate said. “Certainly, the Kosovar Albanians, like any other people, can wish for a life of peace and dignity. But, you cannot build such a life at the expense of others”, said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy chief of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, in comments on Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. This event is a breach of international law, “one of the most crucial principles of which is the inviolability of the territorial integrity of states”, he said. “This principle in the international legal system is not inferior to the idea of human rights, and an attempt to otherwise interpret international law is biased”, Fr Vsevolod said. That the global community has failed to prevent this breach by acceding to force and political pressure “is a most serious blow to the very foundation of the legal system of international relations”, he said.
Most non-Albanians have left Kosovo, and hundreds of churches, which are a part of the cultural heritage of the entire world, have been destroyed and vandalised, and “this was accompanied by outrageous nationalist propaganda”, Fr Vsevolod said. Aleksei II, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, spoke of these instances on many occasions in public speeches and during meetings with high officials from various countries, he said. God willing, the remaining Serbs and other non-Albanians will not have to leave their homes and their spiritual and cultural legacy will not disappear completely, Fr Vsevolod said. “I would like to believe that the Serbian Orthodox Church, whose ancient spiritual centre is in this province, will continue to lead a normal life in Kosovo, developing its mission and service”. However, “previous events leave little hope for this”, he added.
Nevertheless, all countries of the world today must do everything they can to make sure that people of various ethnicities can live a free and peaceful life in Kosovo and have an opportunity to fulfil their hopes and expectations and to choose for themselves a lifestyle both on a governmental level and on an ethnic community level. “When one party to a conflict feels injustice and suffers, the conflict cannot be deemed resolved. This should be clear to all those who make decisions in Kosovo itself and in those countries which are taking responsibility for the people who live there”.
In a related move, the Moscow Patriarchate has urged Kosovar Albanians to understand the disastrous consequences that shall flow from their unilateral declaration of independence. “We would like the Albanian side, which did this, to understand that this path is disastrous, and to seek reconciliation with the Serbians”, Priest Georgy Ryabykh, a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, told Interfax-Religion. Any decision concerning several parties cannot be made unilaterally, as it could lead to an escalation of the conflict, he said. “That is why if the crisis in Kosovo escalates, the responsibility will lie with the Albanian side, because they dared to take this unilateral step”, Fr Georgi said. Patriarch Aleksei II of Moscow and all Russia has many times stated that the issue of the status of Kosovo should not be solved disregarding the opinion of the Serbian people.