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Moldova Rebel Region Says Belongs With Russia

TIRASPOL, Moldova (Reuters) -- Moldova's rebel Transdniester region said on August 31 its place was with Russia despite the victory of pro-European parties in a Moldovan parliamentary election last month.

A coalition of parties standing on a platform of integration with the European Union gained the upper hand over the incumbent Communists in the election and has enough seats in parliament to form a government, though not to elect a president.

Russian-speaking Transdniester, a slice of land neighbouring Ukraine, boycotted the vote.

The region broke away in 1990 fearing Moldova would unite with neighbouring EU-member Romania, with whom Moldovans share linguistic and historical ties. That never happened, but the region has insisted on independence.

Speaking on what Transdniester calls its "Independence Day," self-styled President Igor Smirnov said the election result showed Moldovans have chosen as their allies the EU and the NATO military alliance.

"That is their choice. Our choice is integration with Russia," Smirnov told journalists. "We are not going to run to the EU, to those who gave birth to the current economic and financial crisis and, in the 1930s, to fascism."

Although no part of ex-Soviet Moldova or the Transdniester region border Russia, referendums have shown a majority of the region's half a million people would like to unite with Russia.

No power, including Russia, has recognised Transdniester as an independent state although it has all the trappings of a separate country -- a postal service, border guards, parliament, government, and an army. Russia has a peacekeeping contingent stationed in Transdniester after a brief war in 1992.

Moldova is willing to give Transdniester a degree of autonomy but not independence, a position Russia has shared in talks prompted by Moscow. But Smirnov rejects the notion.

"In 19 years, we have proven our self-sufficiency and now we will not allow anyone to interfere in our lives," he said.