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Moldovan President Looks To Bolster Russia Relations With Moscow Visit

Moldova President Igor Dodon

Moldovan President Igor Dodon says he will look to strengthen relations with Moscow when he travels to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin on March 16-18.

Dodon on March 11 told Russian state news agency TASS he would look to counter the pro-European policies of Moldova’s coalition government, which he said have hurt relations between the two countries.

“I am convinced that the current state of affairs of Russian-Moldovan relations runs counter to the two countries' interests,” he said in the interview.

He blamed the deterioration of relations on the ruling coalition's attempts to “pursue a rapprochement” with the European Union.

“As a result, we have actually lost our traditional Russian markets and failed to obtain new ones."

The Moldovan presidency is a largely symbolic position.

But Dodon's position has been strengthened by the fact he was elected in a direct popular vote -- the first president of the country to win office through such an election since 1997.

His visit to Moscow comes at a delicate time in Moldovan domestic politics.

The Moldovan coalition government is made up of officials from pro-Western parties, while Dodon is the head of the pro-Russian Socialist Party.

The government has expressed desires to join the EU and NATO. Dodon has opposed membership and is looking to move closer to Moscow.

On March 9, Prime Minister Pavel Filip’s government warned its officials not to travel to Russia, citing what it calls abuse and harassment by officials from Moscow's security apparatus.

It said the “humiliating" actions are in retaliation for Chisinau's investigation into an alleged $22 billion scheme to launder Russian money through Moldova's banking system.

Dodon immediately denounced the travel warning as "abnormal."

This will be Dodon’s second official visit to Moscow. He traveled to Russia after his November 13 election on a stated mission of reestablishing a strategic partnership with Moscow, encompassing economic, social, and political cooperation.

Since that meeting, he told TASS, “Moldovan manufacturers have received green light to go into the Russian market and the amnesty process has been launched for Moldovan labor migrants, most of whom work in Russia."

There are an estimated 500,000 Moldovans working in Russia.

Dodon also said he would look for ways to resolve the Transdniester crisis in his meetings.

Transdniester, a Russian-speaking region in Moldova's east, declared independence from Chisinau in 1990.

A war broke out between Moldova and Transdniester in 1992, resulting in hundreds of deaths.

With reporting by TASS and RFE/RL's Moldovan Service
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