Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
31 July 2004 -- Russia's Foreign Ministry warned Moldova today not to use economic sanctions against its separatist Transdniester province in response to the shutting down of schools that teach in Moldovan/Romanian.
The ministry said such a move could trigger retaliation from the separatists -- the majority of whom are Russian-speakers -- and further destabilize the situation.
The ministry's statement came after Romanian President Ion Iliescu had asked Russia to use its influence with the separatists to prevent the school closures.
Two schools have been closed and a third was occupied on 29 July by militia in Transdniester, which has run its own affairs after breaking off from Moldova in a 1992 war.
The Russian Foreign Ministry voiced regret about the school dispute, saying the issue "could have been solved on mutually acceptable terms if both parties showed goodwill."
The Romanian and Moldovan languages are nearly identical.