The Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Crimea written in 2014 explicitly mentions Kosovo as a precedent for unilateral declarations of independence. This declaration of independence was immediately recognized by Russia.

We, the members of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council, with regard to the charter of the United Nations and a whole range of other international documents and taking into consideration the confirmation of the status of Kosovo by the United Nations International Court of Justice on July 22, 2010, which says that unilateral declaration of independence by a part of the country does not violate any international norms, make this decision jointly:

Despite this, Russia does not recognize Kosovo as independent from Serbia, and has been rather vocal about this fact.

How does Russia justify following a precedent that it does not agree with? Why doesn't Russia now recognize Kosovo, given that it apparently now has no issue with unilateral declarations of independence?

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    Well the real reason is of course that Russia and Serbia are friends while Russia and Ukraine are not, and Russia wanted Crimea. I'll leave stated reasons - if any - to the actual answers
    – Gramatik
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 17:37
  • 2
    "How does Russia justify following a precedent that it does not agree with?" Creative ambiguity maybe? Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 9:03

4 Answers 4


The Crimean declaration of independence is to the benefit of Russia.

The Kosovan declaration of independence is to the detriment of Russia's ally, Serbia.

So Russia chooses to recognise the former, but not the latter.

To recognise one, but not the other is not without hypocrisy, though the same accusation could be levelled at the EU for recognising Kosovo but not Russian Crimea.

It is not true to say that Russia now recognises all declarations of independence, as the people of Chechnya will remember.

The July 22 decision was that international law has no prohibition on declarations of independence. This is different from recognition by other nations. Just because a declaration may be legal under "international law", this doesn't make it legal under national law, or require that any other states recognise the country. It does mean that each nation is free to make up its own mind about recognition. Thus Russia is free to recognize any entity it chooses. And it is equally free to not to recognise any region, for any reason.


Western intervention against Yugoslavia left international law in tatters.

West of course broke international law many times before or after that (Libya, Iraq, Syria etc ...) but this was exceptionally dire because false pretext was found to occupy and secede part of sovereign country. Things like that didn't happen since WW2.

War in 1999 had profound effect on Russia and to a lesser degree on China [1:]

Russia concluded that there was high possibility that NATO might make an attack on Russia and its allied nations in a similar way NATO did in Kosovo because NATO underwent a transfiguration to an aggressive alliance, adopting the “New Strategic Concept.” This change in perception of external threats caused to revise the “National Security Concept” and the “Military Doctrine” from the end of 1999 to the beginning of 2000.

From Russian POV, new rule in international relations is might is right, i.e. West would only follow rule of law when it suits them. Although West tried to portray Kosovo as isolated and unique case, Russia was and is aware that this is not so. From now on, using usual techniques of media hysteria and hyped up propaganda, West could and would do as it wants unless stopped by adequate military response.

Considering what happened in Ukraine (government that was neither particularly pro-Russian or pro-Western was forcibly overthrown in the street with the help and encouragement of West), Russia simply concluded that burdening itself with long dead international law is simply not very smart. Therefore they did what they did with Crimea, reminding West that stick has two ends, and what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

  • "government ... was forcibly overthrown in the street with the help and encouragement of West" Citation needed.
    – Limer
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 0:17

In your question there is a false assumption that Russia in some way recognized the legitimacy of the declaration of independence of Kosovo. However, it's not the case. Your quote is the statement made by the Republic of Crimea. That was not a statement made by Russia. Whatever the reasoning was on the part of the Republic of Crimea, it DID NOT automatically reflect the reasoning on the part of Russia.

Russia refused to recognize the legitimacy of independence of Kosovo because Russia recognized the Constitution of Serbia, according to which Kosovo was an integral part of Serbia.

In the same manner, Russia agreed to recognize the legitimacy of independence of Crimea because Russia recognized the Constitution of Ukraine, according to which the state power in the country was by NO MEANS to be changed as a result of a revolution.

Since a revolution had taken place in Ukraine, the Constitution of Ukraine had been violated (and, in fact, the very State defined in the Constitution had, thus, stopped existing), and Crimea was not obliged to submit to the new government in Kiev, which, according to the Constitution, was, in fact, illegal. To stay submitted to that government would have been simply to support the violators of the Constitution of Ukraine. The only way not to do that (not to submit to Kiev) was to declare its independence. Hence, Crimea did that and Russia recognized that.

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    You may also draw a comparison between the declaration of independence of Ukraine (from the USSR) and how closely Crimea followed that scenario.
    – LLlAMnYP
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 7:48
  • @LLlAMnYP there is one mere example: 2 referendums in 1991s: 1. In February of 1991 the first Crimean referendum, where people say that they want to be part of Russia (they feel the smell of claims and attempts to retain power Ukranian SSR over Crimea) 2. In Spring of 1991 the nationwide referendum to save USSR. 15 republics left USSR in the end of 1991.
    – Artem G
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 19:58

There was a referendum in Crimea and Sevastopol. Was there a referendum in Kosovo? No, it wasn't. Only that fact is enough to doubt, that it's Russian gov. uses Kosovo as a precedent, but not the Western media presented this comfortable way. F. minister Lavrov was talking about Folkland islands as an example. And the court's decision right of the nation for separation was used as an example of opened Pandora's box, not as a right example.

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