Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, seen with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov during an official trip to Bulgaria on Friday, opposes any move by Kosovo to declare independence from Serbia. ((Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated Press))

A unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence and recognition from Western powers would be "immoral and illegal," Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday.

Putin, in Bulgaria to mark the 130th anniversary of the nation's independence from the Ottoman Empire, urged more talks between Serbia and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership in order to reach a compromise.

He made the comments at a joint press conference with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, where the two leaders announced Bulgarian participation in a Russian pipeline project.

But ethnic Albanian leaders say they need only the approval of the United States and the European Union and may declare independence as early as this month.

Russia has blocked several attempts by Western countries to have the United Nations recognize Kosovo's independence from Serbia, a staunch Kremlin ally.

Although the province formally remains part of Serbia, it has been run by the UN and NATO since 1999, when NATO air strikes ended a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Putin's statement came as Serbia's minister for Kosovo told hundreds of Kosovo Serbs, who want the region to remain part of Serbia, to ignore talk of independence.

"We want to tell you that this is Serbia, that we will not let it go, ever," Slobodan Samardzic said on Friday.