Moldovan PM denies Transdnestr economic blockade allegations

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CHISINAU, March 6 (RIA Novosti, Vladimir Novosadyuk) - The Moldovan prime minister denied allegations from the breakaway Transdnestr region Monday that new customs regulations imposed by Ukraine amounted to an economic blockade.

"An economic blockade of Transdnestr is out of the question, because our citizens live in this region and we are seeking to improve their life," Vasile Tarlev told a news conference in Chisinau.

Traffic was reported blocked on the Ukrainian-Transdnestr border Monday, and Transdnestr customs said that Ukraine had not given a reasonable response to inquiries.

On March 3, Ukrainian customs service head Alexander Yegorov signed a regulation stipulating that all the cargoes crossing the Ukrainian-Transdnestr border must undergo customs registration in Moldova and not in Transdnestr.

Transdnestr responded by blocking rail and road transit of cargoes to and from Moldova. On Sunday, Transdnestr President Igor Smirnov set up an interdepartmental council to counter what it said were "blockade measures" by Ukraine and Moldova, and 16 public organizations in the region established an anti-blockade coordinating council Monday.

Also Monday, Moldovan Railroads started sending cargo around Transdnestr. It denied Transdnestr media reports that it refused to transit cargoes through Transdnestr as "contradicting reality".

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin discussed the situation with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko by phone, Voronin's press service said Monday. The leaders agreed to keep each other informed about the problem.

Transdnestr's status has been a bone of contention since the armed conflict in the region, which has a predominantly Russian population, broke out in March 1992 after Moldova declared its independence from the Soviet Union and Transdnestr in turn proclaimed itself the Transdnestrian Moldovan Republic. Russia intervened in the conflict at the Moldovan president's request, and the Russian and Moldovan presidents signed a ceasefire agreement in the presence of the Transdnestrian leader in July 1992.

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