On the verge of declaring independence, Kosovo is the key in this year’s Serbian election, the Guardian reports. Tomislav Nicolic, a Russian-aligned Serbian nationalist, won the first round of the presidential elections last night, defeating moderate incumbent Boris Tadic 39% to 35%. Seven other candidates, many pro-Western, are out of the race, which will be decided in a Feb. 3 run-off.
Vladimir Putin stopped in the Balkans Friday to reiterate Russia’s stance that a Kosovar declaration of independence would be “illegal and immoral.” The EU offered to talk about visa-free travel and a pre-membership deal in an effort to bolster Tadic’s pro-Western campaign, though he doesn’t support Kosovo's independence either. Nationalist PM Vojislav Kostunica’s endorsement may tip the vote.