|Moldova separatists warn of war if West steps in
CHISINAU, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Moldova's Russian-speaking separatists warned on Tuesday of a new war in the former Soviet republic if NATO or another international force intervened in the country that shares a border with future EU member Romania.
With Bucharest joining NATO this year and the European Union in 2007, there have been calls in western Europe for some form of peacekeeping mission to Moldova. Russian troops have had a presence in its Dnestr region since a short war in 1992 sealed Russian-speakers' break with the Romanian-speaking majority.
But a senior official in Dnestr, a sliver of land on the east bank of the Dniester river along Moldova's border with Ukraine, said the arrival of fresh troops could mean bloodshed.
"If such steps are taken, it would lead to a new outbreak of conflict, including an armed one," Oleg Gudymo, a deputy security minister in Dnestr's internationally unrecognised government told the region's official news agency Olvia-press.
"The population will view the drafting in of some other forces under the auspices of NATO, the OSCE or the Council of Europe as direct foreign intervention."
On the break-up of the Soviet Union, which had acquired much of Moldova from Bucharest during World War Two, Russian speakers who feared eventual unification with Romania set up their own administration. Russian troops intervened when the conflict turned bloody in 1992. Some 1,500 soldiers are still there.
Western European countries view Dnestr as a lawless haven for smuggling and arms dealing, charges denied by its leaders.
Late last year, Moscow offered to end the dispute by turning Moldova, now Europe's poorest country, into a demilitarised republic with two federated states enjoying broad autonomy.
Russian troops would remain in place until 2020.
But the Russian plan enraged the nationalist opposition in the Moldovan capital Chisinau who fear that their country could slip back into Moscow's broad sphere of influence.
Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin has promised to offer a new plan to keep both Russia and western Europe happy. A new round of talks on how to resolve the conflict is under way.
Russia is using the Dnestr region as a base against NATO expansion. I can't see Russia leaving unless real pressure is put on Putin by the US or the EU.