PRISTINA, Kosovo — Revelers fired guns, waved American and Albanian flags and set off fireworks over Kosovo on Sunday after parliament proclaimed independence from Serbia, which, with Russia, condemned the declaration of the world’s newest nation.
Lawmakers pronounced the territory the Republic of Kosovo and pledged to make it a “democratic, multiethnic state.” Its leaders looked for swift recognition from the U.S. and key European powers, but a bitter showdown could be looming.
Serbia called the declaration illegal and its ally Russia denounced it, saying it threatened to touch off a new conflict in the Balkans. Russia and Serbia called for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council, which met later Sunday but took no action.
In the capital, Pristina, the mood was jubilant. Thousands of ethnic Albanians braved subfreezing temperatures to ride on the roofs of their cars, singing patriotic songs and chanting: “KLA! KLA!” the acronym for the now-disbanded rebel Kosovo Liberation Army. They waved American flags alongside the red Albanian banner imprinted with a black, double-headed eagle.
Parliament on Sunday unveiled a new national crest and a flag: a bright blue banner featuring a golden map of Kosovo and six stars, one for each of its main ethnic groups.
By contrast, police in the Serbian capital Belgrade fired tear gas and rubber bullets in skirmishes with protesters who opposed the declaration. Groups of masked thugs ran through downtown Belgrade smashing windows and ransacking tobacco stands. At least 30 people were injured, about half of them police officers, hospital officials said.
Kosovo had formally remained a part of Serbia even though it has been administered by the U.N. and NATO since 1999, when NATO airstrikes ended former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic’s crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.
Ninety percent of Kosovo’s 2 million people are ethnic Albanian — most of them secular Muslims — and they see no reason to stay joined to the rest of Christian Orthodox Serbia.
Land: Kosovo covers about 4,200 square miles, about the size of Connecticut, and borders Albania and Macedonia.
People: About 2 million, 90 percent ethnic Albanian, of whom most are Muslim, and the rest Catholic. The remaining 10 percent are mainly Orthodox Christian Serbs.
Status: Kosovo has been run by the United Nations and NATO since 1999, when Slobodan Milosevic’s forces were ousted after a NATO air war launched to end his crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists. About 10,000 people were killed and nearly 1 million others driven from their homes.
What’s next: After declaring independence from Serbia on Sunday, Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leadership is counting on swift recognition from the U.S. and key European powers. Serbia, backed by Russia, fiercely opposes the bid and has vowed to block it at the U.N. Security Council.