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Situation Tense As Orphans Defy Transdniester Militia

28 July 2004 -- Armed militia in Transdniester faced off with some 60 orphans who have defied local authorities by reentering their school in the breakaway Moldovan region yesterday.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) describes the situation in Bendery-Tighina, 45 kilometers east of Moldova's capital Chisinau, as "extremely tense."

The OSCE says about 25 Transdniestrian militia are facing off with an equal number of Moldovan policemen on the school grounds, and it is unclear how the situation will be resolved.

An OSCE statement says the local Russian-speaking militia closed the school, forcing the Romanian-speaking Moldovan orphans -- between the ages of seven and 15 -- to stay with teachers. The children forced their way past the militia early today and reentered two buildings at the orphanage.

The closing was the second Moldovan-language school closed by authorities this month. Last week, Moldova withdrew from talks with Transdniester because of efforts by local authorities to shut Moldovan language schools.

(Reuters/AP/RFE/RL's Romanian Service)