New rebel Moldova leader visits Moscow

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The new leader of Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniestr held talks in Moscow on Tuesday shortly after trouncing the Kremlin-backed candidate in local leadership polls.

The pro-Russian region's head Anatoly Kaminsky vowed to keep relations with Moscow open and won a promise of future assistance during negotiations with Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov.

"Russia will continue assisting Transdniestr's social projects in every way," news agencies quoted Ivanov as saying.

Kaminsky for his part told the close aide of Russia's likely new leader Vladimir Putin that "relations with Russia are dear to us."

Transdniestr had been held in a virtual Soviet time warp by its veteran former "president" Igor Smirnov -- a leader who lost the Kremlin's favour for refusing to enter formal settlement talks.

The region declared independence in 1990 and fought a civil war in 1992 following Moldova's independence and decision to re-establish traditional cultural ties with its western neighbour Romania.

Smirnov lost a first-round election on December 16 and Kaminsky beat out the Kremlin favourite Yevgeny Shevchuk on December 25.

Russia has joined other world powers in refusing to recognise the region's independence and still has peacekeepers in the area alongside local and Moldovan troops.

Tension in Transdniestr escalated on Sunday when a Russian soldier killed a local who ignored a stop sign at a security checkpoint in the early hours of New Year's Day.

ITAR-TASS reported residents from the slain man's village were staging a protest outside the checkpoint on Tuesday.

The first formal talks since 2006 on Transdniestr's status were held with OSCE involvement in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius in late November.

© 2012 AFP

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