CHISINAU -- Moldova has ordered Russia to withdraw all its troops from the separatist Transdniester region, where they've been stationed for two decades.
Interim President Mihai Ghimpu issued a decree telling Moscow to withdraw its 1,500 troops "unconditionally, urgently, and transparently" -- the first such direct call from a Moldovan leader.
Russia had pledged to withdraw its troops -- who have been stationed in Transdniester since Soviet times -- by 2002 under a 1999 agreement brokered by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, but it has failed to fulfill its promise.
Transdniester declared independence from Moldova in 1990 and fought a war with Moldovan forces in 1992 that left 1,500 people dead.
The conflict was quelled by Russian forces stationed there which intervened on the separatists' side.
Ghimpu's decree also establishes June 28 as an official "Soviet Occupation Day."
On June 28, 1940, Soviet troops annexed the eastern Romanian province of Bessarabia (the greater part of present-day Moldova) under the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.
Konstantin Kosachev, who heads the Russian State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Russian daily "Kommersant" that Ghimpu's decree is "nonsense." But Kosachev said Russia has to officially react to the last paragraph of the decree, which describes Russian troops in Transdniester as "occupation troops."
Iurie Muntean, a Communist Party leader, told RFE/RL's Moldovan Service he believes that Ghimpu's move is directed against the communist opposition. Muntean said he suspects the final goal could be banning his party ahead of general elections expected in November.
Vladimir Turcan, a former Communist Party leader who leads a small group of independent deputies, told RFE/RL's Moldovan Service that the decree will deepen "political instability" in the country. Turcan accused Ghimpu of pursuing his alleged goal of reuniting Moldova with Romania.
The Moldovan parliament is to examine on June 28 a report by a special presidential investigative commission on the crimes of the Soviet regime.
The report recommends banning the use of Communist symbols by political parties.
The Party of Communists, who ruled Moldova from 2001 to 2009, says the report is directed against today's Communist opposition, rather than the crimes of the former totalitarian regime.