Separatist Moldovan region mulls joining Russia

ANKARA - Officials in the separatist Moldovan region of Trans-Dniester have asked Moscow to consider allowing the territory to follow Crimea's example and become part of Russia, the Russian-based ITAR-Tass News Agency reported Tuesday.

The agency said that government bodies in the separatist region had appealed to Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of the Russian legislature, to add a clause to Russian legislation that might offer Trans-Dniester the possibility of accession to Russia. 

At the same time, the website, based in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, reported that another region of Moldova, Gagauziya, located in the south of the country, had taken steps to create its own army to "defend itself" against the actions of Chisinau, the Moldovan capital. 

Trans-Dniester, though not internationally recognized, has been effectively independent from the government in Chisinau since a brief and bloody war in 1992. As in Crimea, the population of Trans-Dniester is predominantly Russian-speaking and many people there hold Russian passports. Russia maintains more than 1,000 troops in the territory.

In Gagauzia, a referendum was held in February in which an overwhelming majority of voters opted for independence if Moldova chose to enter European Union. Some people believe the Gagauz people, who make up the majority of the population, are descended from the Seljuq Turks.

While both regions appear to be trying to follow Crimea's example, Moldova and Russia are about 500 miles apart, so annexing these regions could prove problematic for Russia.

Still, the actions of these regions highlight a problem prevalent throughout various eastern European countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. When that vast country broke up in 1991, many of those newly independent countries were left with significant Russian-speaking minorities who do not feel integrated in the new political life of the country.

Moldova, a small country sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, has a population of 3.6 million people, nearly 80 percent of whom are ethnic Romanians.

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