Sergei Lavrov (file photo) (official site)
8 November 2005 -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today said Russia's military presence in Moldova's separatist province of Transdniester is essential to the region's stability.
Lavrov, who was visiting Romania today, said the 1,500 Russian troops were helping keep the region peaceful.
Moldova has demanded the immediate withdrawal of all Russian troops from its territory, but Russia has refused, citing tensions in the region.
Lavrov, speaking after talks with his Romanian counterpart Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, said the Russian forces are "honestly" fulfilling their peacekeeping mandate.
The pro-Russian Transdniester broke away from Moldova in 1990. The two sides fought a short war in 1992. The province is not recognized internationally, but receives strong support from Russia.
Russia failed to honor an agreement with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to withdraw its troops and thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition -- left over from the Soviet Army -- by 2003.