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Moldova Asks Russia To Withdraw Troops From Transdniester

CHISINAU -- The Moldovan government today asked the Russian Federation to help resolve the Transdniester conflict by withdrawing its troops and ammunition from the breakaway region, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

The official Moldovan statement was read to the press by Prime Minister Vlad Filat, one day after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych signed a joint statement in Kyiv on the Transdniester conflict.

The statement made no mention of the future of the Russian military in the separatist region.

Instead, Medvedev and Yanukovych urged Moldova to grant Transdniester a "special status" once the conflict is resolved and to remain a neutral country.

The pro-Western Moldovan government, which came to power last autumn after defeating the pro-Moscow Communists in a repeat parliamentary election, had floated the idea of amending the constitution to allow the country to join NATO as part of its new drive to join Euro-Atlantic structures.

But that plan was shelved due to strong opposition from the Communists.

Russia has several hundred troops in Transdniester who are officially there to guard Soviet-era ammunition. Moscow has pledged several times to withdraw them.

Many Moldovans perceive their protracted presence as a tool for political pressure.

The Transdniester region, which has large populations of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, has had de facto independence from Moldova since the end of a brief war between separatist and Moldovan forces in 1992.