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Russia is planning to hold a round of consultations in April with Ukraine on the situation around the self-proclaimed republic of Transdnestr in Moldova
Russia is planning to hold a round of consultations in April with Ukraine on the situation around the self-proclaimed republic of Transdnestr in Moldova, a senior Russian diplomat said Monday. Ambassador-at-Large Valery Kenyaikin said that Russia would pursue proactive contacts on the issue with officials from Moldova, the 55-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United States. Transdnestr's status has been a bone of contention since armed conflict broke out in March 1992, when Moldova declared its independence from the Soviet Union and Transdnestr in turn proclaimed itself a republic. Russia intervened in the conflict at the Moldovan president's request, and the Russian and Moldovan presidents signed a ceasefire agreement in the presence of the leader of Transdnestr in July 1992. In 1997, the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Transdnestr signed a memorandum on the normalization of relations between Moldova and Transdnestr, outlining the basic principles for a settlement in the region. The memorandum stipulated a special status for Transdnestr within Moldova. Both sides pledged to refrain from using force, and to negotiate agreements with Russia and Ukraine as guarantors in the peace process, with the assistance of the OSCE, the world's largest regional security grouping, and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), an association of former Soviet republics. However, the situation around the self-proclaimed republic deteriorated recently after the prime ministers of Ukraine and Moldova outlined new customs regulations on the border between Ukraine and Transdnestr on December 30, 2005. The new set of regulations, requiring all Ukraine-bound goods from Transdnestr to bear an official Moldovan stamp, was endorsed by the Ukrainian Cabinet in a March 1 decree. The measure led to protests from Tiraspol and Moscow, which said it was an attempt to impose an economic blockade on the ex-Soviet state's separatist region. A Russian delegation recently visited Transdnestr to investigate the impasse over the new customs regulations. Kenyaikin, who headed the delegation, said then that the customs technicalities had become a political crisis with potentially dire consequences. Transdnestr leader Igor Smirnov said after the visit that the republic hoped to continue negotiations on its status. "It is better to conduct talks than to conduct economic wars, or, God forbid, military action," he said. "We will always talk about normalizing relations [with Moldova], no matter what goals Moldova is pursuing." In a separate development, Transdnestr's economics minister, Yelena Chernenko, said on March 10 that the losses sustained by the region due to the new rules in the week from March 3 to March 9 came to $20.2 million.
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