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Transdniester Protests Ukrainian Customs Rules

(RFE/RL) March 6, 2006 -- Transdniester separatist leader Igor Smirnov said today new customs rules by neighboring Ukraine amount to an economic blockade of Moldova's breakaway region.

As of March 3, all goods exported to Ukraine from Transdniester need to be cleared by Moldovan customs. That would require Transdniester's separatist authorities to pay taxes to the Moldovan government, which they oppose.

In retaliation, separatist authorities blocked three trains carrying goods from Ukraine to Moldova as they passed through Transdniester.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said Ukraine's move was "an attempt to put economic pressure" on the region.

Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev denied the accusations.

"There was no economic blockade of the Transdniester region," Tarlev said today. "There was not, is not, and would not be [a blockade]. The Moldovan government is not interested in an economic blockade of its citizens, and we want to live in peace and prosperity together with our brothers and fellow citizens from this region."

Transdniester, which is inhabited largely by ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, broke away from Moldova in the early 1990s. It is not recognized internationally but receives strong backing from Russia, which has 1,500 troops stationed there.