CHISINAU -- Moldovan lawmakers demanded that Russian troops pull out of the pro-Moscow breakaway region of Transdniester, intensifying the ongoing standoff between Moldova's pro-Western government and its Russia-friendly president.
In a July 21 vote supported by 61 of the 101 members of parliament, lawmakers approved a “symbolic” statement that called for the removal of Russian troops, weapons, and other military equipment from Transdniester.
The declaration said presence of Russian forces "violates the constitutional provisions on independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity" of Moldova.
Moscow-backed and mainly Russian-speaking Transdniester, which borders on Ukraine's Odesa region, declared independence from Moldova in 1990.
The two sides fought a brief war in 1992 that ended when the Russian military intervened on the side of Transdniester, which is not recognized as an independent nation by any country.
Pro-EU Moldovan lawmaker Marian Lupu praised the vote, calling it "symbolic” as it came on the 25th anniversary of the end of the 1992 war.
But Socialist President Igor Dodon, who was elected in November, immediately hit back, calling the move "another provocative step" that was "intended to worsen relations with Russia."
Molovan politics is split between a pro-Western government that seeks closer links to the European Union and the United States and a president who wants to tighten ties to Moscow.
Relations between Moldova and Russia have heightened this year with disputes over the treatment of Moldovan officials traveling to or through Russia and the expulsion of diplomats on both sides in May.
Meanwhile, domestic tensions also increased on July 21 as hundreds of opposition activists protested in front of the presidential office in Chisinau against a bill introducing a mixed electoral system signed into law on July 20.
The new law provides for half of the lawmakers to be elected on party lists and another half in individual constituencies.
The ruling Democratic Party initially pushed forward the idea to fully abandon party lists system, but opposition parties protested, saying the ruling party's goal was to secure its victory in 2018 parliamentary elections amid its declining popularity.