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Moldova region urges Russia, EU to recognise independence

A Transdniestr border police office looks at the Ukraine border point with Moldova at Kuchurgan-Pervomaysk, on April 15, 2014
A Transdniestr border police office looks at the Ukraine border point with Moldova at Kuchurgan-Pervomaysk, on April 15, 2014

Moldova's pro-Russian breakaway region of Transdniestr on Wednesday called on Russia and the international community to recognise its independence, as fears grew that it could become a new flashpoint in East-West tensions.

The leader of Transdniestr, in an interview with AFP, called on the EU to recognise the Russian-speaking statelet as independent, saying it was vital to ensuring stability in the region following rising tensions in Ukraine.

Yevgeny Shevchuk said: "The European Union must recognise Transdniestr which does not present and will not present any risk for it.

"Only in this case will a zone of stability be created in the region."

The call came shortly after Transdniestr's parliament passed a resolution asking for international recognition of its status as an "independent state". It stopped short of requesting annexation by Russia.

Shevchuk told AFP that for the moment he was only seeking recognition of Transdniestr and did not want to enter into "hypothetical suppositions" about its integration into Russian territory.

"What happens in the next steps must be determined by the citizens of our republic," he said.

However, he has previously been explicit about his desire to have the region come under Kremlin rule.

"Our dream is a prosperous independent Transdniestr together with Russia," he said during a state-of-the-nation address earlier this month.

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.

Moscow has since maintained thousands of troops in Transdniestr, and has for years provided money to prop up the poor region of 500,000.

Residents in Transdniestr, which has never been recognised as an independent state by any United Nations member, voted overwhelmingly to join Russia in a referendum in 2006.

The Kremlin has never responded to the referendum, but calls for independence have intensified in Transdniestr in the wake of Moscow's takeover of Crimea last month.

"According to the universally recognised norms of international law, a right of people to self-determination should be the basis of political decisions," deputy parliament speaker Sergei Cheban told AFP.

"Every state should respect this right."

A group of Transdniestr politicians led by parliament speaker Mikhail Burla are due to travel to Moscow in the coming days where they plan to hand over copies of the resolution to Russian lawmakers.

-'Challenge to Moldova's integrity'-

Moldova's Prime Minister Iurie Leanca slammed the resolution as a "challenge" to the country's integrity, undermining years of effort to resolve the long-running crisis.

He called on the West and Russia to help "work out a special status for Transdniestr within an independent and united Moldova."

The resolution comes as tensions mount in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian forces have seized government buildings and demanded to break away from control of Kiev.

Some analysts expressed doubt that Russia would want to further ramp up tensions with the West over Moldova's breakaway region.

"I don't think making Transdniestr part of Russia is in the Kremlin's plans," said Konstantin Kalachev, head of the Political Expert Group.

"Taking control over Transdniestr would create a host of problems and would not give Russia any advantages. Russia will ask them to dampen down their ardour."

Transdniestr lawmakers have indeed toned down their requests for incorporation into Russia in recent days.

"At this moment, bearing in mind our geographical position, we do not recommend such a request," said Cheban.

"Our resolution is not only addressed to Russia but also to the UN and the OSCE, to ask them what we have asked for 20 years, that is to recognise our independence."

But others indicated Wednesday's resolution was just a "first step."

"According to the results of the (2006) referendum there are two decisions: the first stage is the recognition of the republic and the second step is joining Russia," said Burla in remarks released by his office.

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