Russian absorption of Moldova's rebel region 'not on agenda'

3rd July 2014, Comments 0 comments

Russia has signed a raft of fresh economic agreements with Moldova's breakaway region but stopped short of discussing absorbing Transdniestr, the rebel statelet's leader said on Thursday.

The leader of the Russian-speaking region of Transdniestr, Yevgeny Shevchuk, travelled to Moscow after Moldova last week signed key political and trade agreements with the European Union despite objections from Russia.

After Moscow annexed Ukraine's Russian-speaking peninsula of Crimea, Transdniestr called again on Russia to recognise its independence and make it part of its territory.

But Shevchuk indicated Thursday that Russia, which faces the treat of new Western sanctions over Ukraine, might not be willing to ramp up tensions further.

"We would like Russia to make such decisions but we cannot impose our will on Russia," he told reporters.

"Citizens of Transdniestr are waiting for Russia to acknowledge the results of the 2006 referendum," when they voted overwhelmingly to join Russia.

Transdniestr is a strip of land bordering Ukraine which broke away from Romanian-speaking Moldova following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and a brief civil war the following year. But it has never been recognised as an independent state by any United Nations member.

Moscow has since maintained thousands of troops in Transdniestr, and has for years provided money to prop up the poor region of 500,000 people, which include some 180,000 Russian nationals.

On Wednesday, Shevchuk and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin oversaw the signing of seven agreements covering economics, trade, transport, agriculture and science.

The Russian foreign ministry said fostering closer cooperation was especially important due to "regional and economic conditions becoming more complicated".

Last week Moldova as well as fellow ex-Soviet nations Ukraine and Georgia signed association accords with Brussels, a momentous move away from former master Russia.

Shevchuk said on Thursday that Moldova's increased ties with the EU would bring more disadvantages than advantages.

In April, parliament in Transdniestr passed a resolution asking for international recognition of its status as an "independent state".

Moldova has repeatedly warned Russia against making any moves that would threaten its territorial integrity.

© 2014 AFP

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