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Moldova: CIS Leaders Back Embattled President Voronin

Almaty, 1 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Presidents at an informal summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) today expressed their support for Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, whose leadership has been rocked by a wave of antigovernment protests. Russian President Vladimir Putin said after the summit in Kazakhstan that the leaders of CIS think the line taken by Moldovan president is correct and balanced.

Protests have gripped Moldova since January against the plans of pro-Moscow Communists to introduce compulsory Russian language lessons.

Responding to the protests, the government in late February withdrew initiatives making the Russian language mandatory in schools, eliminating Romanian history classes, and making Russian the country's second official language.

Moldovans speak a language nearly identical to Romanian. However, some 36 percent of the population in Moldova are Russian speakers.