Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Moldova Grapples with Ethnic Strife, Breakaway Republic

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Moldova Grapples with Ethnic Strife, Breakaway Republic

Article excerpt

OFFICIALS say recent ethnic fighting in Moldova, in which at least 12 people were killed and dozens more wounded, increases the chances of a Yugoslav-style civil war engulfing the republic.

Moldovan authorities reportedly agreed on a cease-fire late Wednesday with representatives of the self-proclaimed Dnestr Republic, a separatist region in eastern Moldova inhabited mainly by Russians and Ukrainians. The two sides pledged to hold further talks, but Dnestr Republic leaders say a peaceful resolution to the conflict will be difficult to achieve.

"There is a very real danger that the Dnestr region may become a Moldovan variant of Yugoslavia," said Alexander Karaman, the nominal vice president of the Dnestr Republic, at a Moscow news conference.

Moldova has been the scene of repeated ethnic violence during the past 18 months. Moldovans, who have strong cultural ties to neighboring Romania, comprise about 65 percent of the republic's population. Sizable numbers of Russians, Ukrainians, and Gagauz, a Turkish people, also live in Moldova.

Militant Russians have bitterly complained of growing discrimination by Moldovans, and, in a move they say was aimed at protecting their rights, proclaimed the Dnestr Republic's independence in 1990. They also established a 1,200-member defense force. Moldovan authorities in Kishinev refuse to recognize the renegade republic.

The current crisis began Monday when at least two people died in a gun battle involving Moldovan police and a combined force of Russian militants and Cossacks. The incident took place in the predominantly Russian city of Dubossary, about 30 miles northeast of the capital Kishinev.

About 80 Moldovan militants later Monday stormed a military installation of the Commonwealth of Independent States not far from Dubossary, seizing arms and ammunition. That prompted renewed fighting in the nearby town of Kochiery on Tuesday between Moldovan nationalists and Russians. …

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