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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 00:38 GMT
Russian row claims Moldovan minister
Protesters celebrate minister's scalp on the streets of Chisinau
The Moldovan President, Vladimir Voronin, has dismissed the Education Minister, Ilie Vancea, over a plan to force schoolchildren to learn Russian as a compulsory second language.

The president said Mr Vancea would be assigned other duties.

Mr Vancea has already apologised for the language plan, saying it had been a mistake.

There have been weeks of demonstrations in Moldova against moves to forge closer ties with Russia.

Voronin's communists want closer ties with Russia
A BBC Correspondent in Moscow says that many Moldovans see closer ties with Russia as a throwback to the Soviet era.

Mr Voronin also appointed a professional financier, Zinaida Grecianyi as the new finance minister to replace Mikhail Manoli, who resigned last month in a dispute with other cabinet members over tax issues.

Correspondents said the appointment was angled at the International Monetary Fund which has just sent a monitoring mission to begin work in Moldova.

The IMF froze its $142 million three-year loan to Moldova last year due to concern over the slow pace of reform and the government has failed to get the IMF to relent.

On Tuesday, about 3,000 students and nationalists picketed the building of the state television station, which had previously exhorted parents and teachers to prevent student protests against Mr Vancea's language plans.

As protests grew outside the building, TV staff staged a surprise on-air protest against state censorship of its programmes - splashing a "No to Censorship" slogan across the screen after a truncated news broadcast.

Normal broadcasting resumed after a half-hour blackout when staff reportedly won assurances that officials would stop dictating editorial policies.

See also:

18 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Moldova
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