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Last Updated: Friday, 30 July, 2004, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Moldovan republic faces blockade
School classroom in Bender
Four schools have been closed
Moldova has threatened to impose economic sanctions on the breakaway Trans-dniester region, amid a dispute over the language used in schools.

Officials in the Russian and Ukrainian-speaking Trans-dniester republic have closed several schools which use Romanian - Moldova's official language.

One school has reportedly been occupied by local militia who clashed with teachers and students staging a sit-in.

Russia has agreed to intervene to end the row.

Romanian President Ion Iliescu said Russia should facilitate negotiations before "events got out of control", adding that Moscow had influence over the self-proclaimed republic's leaders.

TRANS-DNIESTER REGION
Map of Moldova
Largely Russian and Ukrainian-speaking
Declared independence in 1990
Not recognised by any other state
Separatist capital is Tiraspol
Population under a million
4,300 children attend the schools under threat
1,400 Russian troops established in Trans-dniester
Russia has said it was prepared to hold talks "not only in the "school crisis" but also in the two sides' relations as a whole".

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin said the blockade would be imposed if the schools were not re-opened by 1 August.

Dabija, 15, one of 300 orphans who have seen their boarding school closed, said he would defend his school because he "did not have anything more precious in life".

He and about 60 children, some as young as seven years old, had broken into their school in Tighina to protest at its closure.

Moldova has a strong relationship with Romania as two-thirds of its citizens are ethnic Romanians.

It formed part of Romania until 1940, when it was taken over by the Soviet Union, and declared independence in 1991 after the Soviet collapse.

However, the Russian-speaking population in Trans-dniester looks towards Moscow.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's envoy in Moldova, William Hill, has described the situation as "explosive".

The body has said the shutdown of the schools equates to "linguistic cleansing".

The stand-off has led to fears that there may be an outbreak of violence. Hundreds of people died in fighting which erupted after Trans-dniester declared independence.




SEE ALSO:
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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