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Moldova Marks Independence Day Amid Tensions With Russia

Moldova Marks Independence Day As Pensioners Condemn Government
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Moldova marks Independence Day as pensioners condemn government.

Moldova marked the 26th anniversary of its independence from the Soviet Union on August 27 with celebrations that included a folk-costume parade, speeches by political leaders, wreath-laying ceremonies at monuments, and a concert in the capital, Chisinau.

Meanwhile, hundreds joined a march called by the Union of Pensioners in Moldova to protest against corruption and low pensions.

Participants carried pickets with slogans such as "Stop social genocide," "The Minimum pension is a minimum of existence," and "Moldova, the failed state where pensioners have been robbed by thieves from the government."

Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has been marred by widespread corruption, high migration, and an ongoing frozen conflict with its breakaway region of Transdniester.

President Igor Dodon, who has courted Russia and is at odds with his country's pro-European Union government, on August 27 decorated several people for contributions to closer ties with Russia.

Prime Minister Pavel Filip, in a speech to parliament, reiterated his government's determination to pursue closer ties with the EU.

Moldovans mark Independence Day in Chisinau
Moldovans mark Independence Day in Chisinau

The celebrations come amid hightened tensions with Russia, after Moldova's envoy to the United Nations, Victor Moraru, earlier this month called on the upcoming 72nd session of the UN General Assembly to discuss the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transdniester.

Moldova's move has sparked an angry response from the Russian government, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov calling it a "provocative initiative."

Russia maintains an estimated 2,000-strong force in Transdniester -- 1,500 troops that Moscow says guard huge Soviet-era arms depots, and up to 500 peacekeepers to ensure an uneasy 25-year-old cease-fire which ended a bloody conflict between Moldova and its eastern separatist region.

At a 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul, Moscow had pledged to withdraw its troops from Transdniester by 2002, but never followed suit.

In a congratulatory statement, the U.S. State Department said that Washington remains "committed to helping Moldova find a resolution to the Transdniester settlement process that will guarantee Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."

"For the past 26 years, the United States has supported Moldova’s pursuit of a prosperous European future characterized by a respect for democratic principles, human rights, and the rule of law," the August 27 statement said.