The first shipment of Russian humanitarian aid for Kosovo's Serbs arrived in Belgrade on Wednesday, as Serbia continued its diplomatic struggle to reverse recognition of the breakaway province.
The shipment of 140 tonnes consisted of $1.7 million (857,000 pounds) worth of food products including, sugar, flour and canned meat.
"The aid will be distributed to some 8,300 Kosovo Serb families," Serbia's Minister for Kosovo, Slobodan Samardzic, told a news conference. "This is a big day for us. We are grateful to Russia for its material and moral support."
Russia is Serbia's main ally in its diplomatic struggle to reverse the February 17 declaration of independence by Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the population. Kosovo has been recognised as independent by major Western powers.
Underscoring Russia's refusal to recognize Kosovo as a sovereign state, President Vladimir Putin ordered his government last week to send aid to Serb populated enclaves, after Belgrade asked Moscow to do so.
The aid has, so far, not been coordinated with Kosovo's government or with the United Nations, which has administered Kosovo since NATO drove Serb forces out of the province in 1999 to halt a wave of killing and ethnic cleansing during a counter-insurgency war.
Three further shipments were due to arrive by April 10, consisting of medicines and medical equipment.
Serbia has urged Kosovo's estimated 120,000 Serbs to ignore the Kosovo government and rely on Belgrade for jobs, justice, police, education and social security.
Continuing a global diplomatic campaign against recognition, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said in Portugal on Wednesday that Serbia had not lost Kosovo and would continue to treat it as part of its territory.
"As far as the Serbian constitution is concerned, as far as international law is concerned ... Kosovo is not lost for Serbia," he told reporters after meeting his Portuguese counterpart Luis Amado in Lisbon.
"We are continuing to treat Kosovo legally as a part of our territory and we are not going to give up sovereignty."
He said Serbia "remains committed to finding, to resolving this by means of negotiation, a compromise solution endorsed in the Security Council".