The separatist Albanian-dominated province in southern Serbia is expected to unilaterally declare independence on Sunday or Monday, a move backed by the United States and most EU countries. Serbia, Russia and some European states oppose the plans, considering them a violation of international law.
During his final annual news conference as Russian president, Putin said: "I don't want to offend anyone, but Northern Cyprus has been a de facto independent republic for 40 years. Why then don't you recognize it? Aren't you, Europeans, ashamed of applying double standards in solving identical problems in different parts of the world?"
Russia has repeatedly said that granting Kosovo sovereignty could serve as a precedent and trigger a chain reaction for secessionist regions throughout the world, including in Greece, Spain, Georgia, Moldova and Cyprus. But countries supporting Kosovo's independence insist that the case is unique, and that there is no threat of weakening international law.
Putin said: "There is nothing unique about this problem and everyone knows this. It is all the same: an interethnic conflict, crime on both sides and a complete de facto independence."
He said Serbia's territorial integrity was fixed in UN Security Council Resolution 1244, adopted in 1999 following NATO bombings that ended a bloody conflict between Albanian and Serb forces in Kosovo, so "all UN member states must follow its provisions."
The president called for uniform rules for solving such problems, and warned that international law and order would otherwise be undermined.
However, Putin assured that if Western countries acknowledge Kosovo's independence, Russia has no plans to seek "non-legal" retaliation.
A plan for Kosovo's independence failed in UN Security Council discussions. Russia, a veto-wielding member of the council, maintains that a solution should be based on a compromise between Belgrade and Pristina, and calls for security and humanitarian problems to be rectified in the province.