FIRST ECHELON WITH AMMUNITION TO GO TO TRANSDNIESTRIA

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TIRASPOL, March 23, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent, Vladimir Sandutsa) - Russia is resuming the pullout of ammunition from Transdniestria.

According to the Russian operative group HQ, the first echelon with ammunition is due to be sent on Thursday.

Earlier, Transdniestrian leader Igor Smirnov said at a Tiraspol press conference that the pullout of Russian weapons from the region was merely an internal issue of Russia and Transdniestria. He noted that the Transdniestrian side met its obligations, while the Russian side had some difficulties to tackle. Mr. Smirnov accused the Moldovan authorities of this. (Transdniestria is a self-proclaimed republic within Moldova.) In November 2003, after the schedule of the hardware pullout was co-ordinated, the sides decided to draft an intergovernmental agreement writing off Transdniestria's debts for Russian gas.

The document was then approved by the Russian government and envisaged free financial aid to Moldova from Russia to the sum of $105 million, with $100 million for Transdniestria and $5 million for Moldova.

However, the Russian authorities cannot conclude an agreement to the effect with the unrecognised republic for obvious reasons. The lack of the state leaders' signatures on the document stalled the ammunition pullout.

Recently, Minister for Moldova's Reintegration Vasile Sova stated Chisinau's readiness to sign the document if political obligations are excluded from it. He stated that the Moldovan authorities disagreed with tying Transdniestria's gas debt to the pullout of the Russian troops and ammunition from the region.

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