On September 28, Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, played the Kremlin's favorite card in response to claims about the so-called referendums in Ukraine on the issue of joining the Russian Federation. He stated that this situation is no different from the withdrawal of Kosovo from Serbia.
“By denying the residents of Donbass and the liberated territories of Ukraine the right to self-determination, Western delegations demonstrate blatant double standards. The loudest critics of the referendums in the Donbass, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions were once in the forefront of supporters of Kosovo's independence. And then they argued that this territory had the right to secede from the Serbian state in the event of a real threat that the rights of Kosovo Albanians would be seriously violated - the so-called secession for the purpose of protection.
He recalled that this was recognized by the International Court of Justice in 2008.
At the same time, at that moment, nothing threatened the Kosovo Albanians for a long time. Yugoslavia was no longer on the map. And in NATO-bombed Serbia, there was a foreign contingent as peacekeepers.
According to Nebenzi, the annexation of Ukrainian territories to Russia is even more legal, because "referendums" were held there:
I would like to emphasize that, unlike Crimea, the LPR, the DPR of the Kherson region and Zaporozhye, no referendums were held in Kosovo at all. There was no free expression of the will of the population.
By this, he repeated the thesis of Vladimir Putin, voiced on September 21 at the Eastern Economic Forum.
The Charter of the United Nations speaks of the right of nations to self-determination. During the Kosovo crisis, the International Court of Justice decided that if any part of the territory, part of the country wants to declare its independence, this part is not obliged to ask permission from the central government of its country. This applies to Kosovo.
With regard to the Donetsk Republic and Luhansk - why not the same thing? All the same. If they have the right to do so—and they do have it in accordance with the UN Charter and the right to self-determination—they, exercising this right, have declared their independence.
The legitimacy of Kosovo's secession is indeed a big question mark. Even some European countries have not yet recognized its independence, including, by the way, Ukraine. However, this was a fundamentally different, inter-ethnic conflict that did not arise as a result of the invasion of another state, but as a result of the collapse of Yugoslavia, the nationalist Slobodan Milosevic came to power in Serbia (later found guilty of genocide) and the ensuing curtailment of the rights and freedoms of Kosovo Albanians (who constituted the absolute majority in the region). NATO bombings were preceded by years of war between Serbs and Albanians with a large number of civilian casualties (remember, for example, the massacres in the village of Racak, which killed 45 Albanians, including 2 women and 1 child).
Second, the referendum in Kosovo, contrary to Nebenzi's assurances, was held from 26 to 30 September 1991. It was boycotted by the Serb minority living in the region, but with an 87% turnout, 99% of Albanians voted yes.
And, finally, the third - the International Court of Justice has not recognized the independence of Kosovo. In response to a request from Serbia, which sounded like this: "Does the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo comply with international law?" the court ruled that the declaration of independence adopted by the Kosovo Assembly did not violate international law. The legality of the unilateral secession, as well as the issue of Kosovo's independence, the court simply refused to consider.