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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 July, 2004, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Romania blasts Moldova school closures
School classroom in Bender
Four schools have been closed

The Romanian government has expressed concern over the reported eviction of some 60 children from a boarding school in Trans-Dniester, a breakaway region in neighbouring Moldova.

Earlier this week, police in the predominantly Russian-speaking region closed the Moldovan-language school in the town of Bender, and left a number of children to sleep on the streets.

The authorities in Bucharest have condemned the move, blaming officials in Trans-Dniester for "stoking a policy of ethnic and linguistic cleansing".

They have also backed a European Union statement calling for the school, which is attended by orphans and children from disadvantaged families, to be reopened.

But Trans-Dniester's education minister, Yelena Bomeshko, has said the schools were closed down because they failed to obtain an education licence from the regional authorities.

Sanctions threat

The use in schools of Moldovan, which is almost identical to Romanian, is the latest issue to fuel tensions between Trans-Dniester and the Moldovan government.

Teachers and pupils in Bender
Some schools still use the Latin alphabet

Four Moldovan-language schools have been closed down in the region in recent weeks, despite protests from the Moldovan government and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin has attacked the breakaway region's authorities in the wake of the closures, branding the region's leaders "a transnational criminal group" and accusing them of taking the children hostage.

He has also threatened to impose sanctions on the region unless it changes its policy on Moldovan-language schools.

The current dispute revolves as much around alphabet as language. The Moldovan authorities brought the Moldovan language into line with Romanian in the early 1990s by switching over to the Latin alphabet.

But the majority of Moldovan schools in Trans-Dniester follow the earlier convention of using the Cyrillic alphabet.

Russia request

However, more than 4,000 of the region's children still attend schools where the Latin alphabet is used.

The dispute has been extensively covered in the regional media. State-owned Romanian TV has carried several reports in its prime time evening news bulletins, while the evictions were also the lead item in Monday evening's main news summary on state-run Moldova One.

The channel also highlighted condemnation by the European Union and the OSCE of the spate of closures.

The Moldovan Education Ministry has now asked Russia for help in resolving the crisis.

Ministry official Yekaterina Semchenkova told reporters Moscow could act as a "guarantor" in the dispute.

Earlier this week, Trans-Dniester's foreign minister, Valery Litskai, suggested a referendum may be held on whether Trans-Dniester should become part of Russia.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Country profile: Moldova
06 Jul 04  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Romania
14 Jul 04  |  Country profiles
OSCE condemns orphan evictions
28 Jul 04  |  Europe
Peace talks restart on Moldova
24 Feb 04  |  Europe

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