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Last Updated: Monday, 18 September 2006, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
Trans-Dniester backs Russia union
Voters cast their ballots in Tiraspol, Trans-Dniester on 17 September
Trans-Dniester is a mainly Russian-speaking region
Voters in Moldova's breakaway region of Trans-Dniester have backed the area's independence and a plan to eventually join Russia, election officials say.

They say 97.1% of the voters backed independence and a union with Russia in Sunday's referendum.

Moldova and the West have dismissed the poll as illegitimate.

Trans-Dniester declared itself to be independent in 1990 from the Soviet republic of Moldova - but it has never been recognised internationally.

Some European nations believe the area, with a population of about 500,000 people, poses a risk to regional security, and Moldova calls it a haven for criminals.

The government in Tiraspol insists it should have the right to self-determination.

Civil war

Correspondents say Russia has shown no desire to absorb the territory, although it does have 1,200 troops deployed there.

The referendum results were announced by Trans-Dniester's central election commission chief Pyotr Denisenko.

Map of Moldova, including Trans-Dniester

Mr Denisenko also said 94.6% voted against abandoning the region's independence and forming an eventual union with Moldova.

The turnout was 78.6%.

The self-proclaimed republic is a mainly Russian-speaking area that fought a bloody civil war with Moldova in the early 1990s.

The referendum was held because of growing economic pressure from Moldova and neighbouring Ukraine as part of an EU project to improve regional security, analysts say.

It could set a precedent for other pro-Russian separatist states in the former Soviet Union, correspondents say.

Why the republic wants to break away from Moldova

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