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Romania Blocks Russian Deputy PM From EU Airspace


A speaker at the anti-Rogozin protest at Chisinau's international airport

CHISINAU -- Romania has confirmed that it blocked a commercial flight from its airspace that was transporting Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on an official trip to Moldova.

Rogozin said his trip was cancelled after Romanian authorities did not allow the plane he was aboard to proceed to Moldova on July 28.

Rogozin had been expected to arrive to Chisinau to hold talks with Moldova's pro-Russia president, Igor Dodon.

He also had been scheduled to take part -- together with Dodon and Transdniester’s separatist leader Vadim Krasnoselsky -- in controversial July 29 celebrations initiated by Moscow to mark the 25th anniversary of Russia's so-called peacekeeping operation in Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester.

Rogozin said on July 28 in a tweet that his commercial flight had to change course and land in Minsk after aviation authorities in European Union member Romania refused to permit the aircraft to fly through Romanian airspace.

Rogozin tweeted: "The Romanian authorities have endangered the lives of passengers of an S7 airliner, women and children. There was enough fuel to get to Minsk. Wait for our response, vermin!"

Rogozin has been targeted by U.S., EU, and Canadian sanctions over his public support for Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Under those sanctions, he is banned from entering EU countries.

Dodon criticized Romania's move as an "unprecedented Russophobic show" aimed at undermining Moldova's "good relations with our strategic partner Russia."

"This script is written not in Chisinau but in the West," Dodon said.

Ahead of Rogozin's scheduled arrival at Chisinau airport on July 28, dozens of pro-EU activists protested his plans to visit Moldova.

On July 26, Russia's ambassador to Chisinau, Farit Mukhametshin, was summoned to Moldova's Foreign Ministry and informed that the celebrations in Transdniester could damage relations between Moldova and Russia.

On July 27, Moldova officials refused to allow a group of Russian entertainers who were on their way to Transdniester to perform in the celebrations to enter Chisinau.

Those developments came after Moldova's parliament on July 21 called for the removal of Russian troops, weapons, and other military equipment from Transdniester.

The parliamentary declaration said the presence of Russian forces in the breakaway region "violates the constitutional provisions on independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity" of Moldova.

Russia maintains a 1,200-strong military force in Transdniester despite Moldova's repeated calls for it to be replaced with international peacekeepers.

Transdniester, which borders Ukraine's Odesa region, declared independence from Moldova in 1990.

Moldovan government forces and the separatists fought a brief war in 1992 that ended with Russian military intervention on the side of Transdniester.

The declaration of independence by Transdneister separatists has not been recognized by any country -- despite Moscow's unofficial backing of the separatists.

Chisinau itself is split between a pro-Western government and Dodon, who supports closer ties with Moscow.

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

With reporting by AP, AFP, TASS, and Interfax
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