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Transdniester, Russia Angered By Ukraine's Border Regime

March 5, 2006 -- Ukraine has sparked a flurry of criticism after tightening border rules with Moldova as part of EU efforts to stamp out illegal smuggling, a top Ukrainian customs official said on March 5.

Russia and the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniester, which is directly affected by the new rules, have accused Kyiv of trying to pressure Transdniester, said Oleksandr Yegorov.

Moldova, meanwhile, complained that Kyiv has taken too long to enforce the new procedures.

With growing pressure from Moldova and the European Union to restore order to the border area, Ukraine on March 3 imposed new rules that now require all cargo to be cleared by Moldovan customs officers.

Yegorov that 14 automobiles and 13 train cars had been delayed at the crossing point, and at least eight were sent back to Transdniester. He added that Moldova was not letting through any vehicles that did not have proper customs stamps.

An EU mission has been trying to help Ukraine and Moldova restore order with Transdniester, a mostly Slavic, Russian-speaking region that broke away from Moldova in 1992 after a short war that left about 1,500 people dead.

Russia maintains a 1,800-strong military presence in the region. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has tried to increase his country's role in seeking a peaceful settlement.

The Foreign Ministry of Transdniester's unrecognized government slammed the new custom rules as a sign that Ukraine was "siding with one of the parties." Russia's Foreign Ministry called the move "another attempt to put economic pressure" on Transdniester "to force it to give up its political stand."

(RFE/RL 06.iii.06)

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