Russian delegates visit power plant in crisis-hit Transdnestr

TIRASPOL, March 8 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian delegation visiting Moldova's breakaway province of Transdnestr to investigate the impasse surrounding the new customs regulations with neighboring Ukraine has visited a local power plant owned by Russia's electricity monopoly.

The hydropower plant owned by Unified Energy System (UES) has 12 units, with only one of them generating energy for Transdnestr, a province mainly populated by ethnic Russians and Ukrainians. The remaining 11 units supply power to Moldova.

Russian experts at the power plant have expressed concerns that with the current crisis threatening to halt the operations of many businesses in the self-proclaimed republic, the same could happen to the plant.

"We have established all these issues and will now report to our leadership," Russian Foreign Ministry official Valery Kenyaikin, heading the Russian expert delegation, said.

Last Friday, Ukraine introduced new customs regulations requiring all goods passing the Transdnestr-Ukraine border to bear an official Moldovan stamp, a move that caused protests from Tiraspol and Moscow, which both regard the measure as an attempt to impose an economic blockade on the ex-Soviet state's separatist region. Russian and Ukrainian businesses are already losing millions of dollars daily over the measure.

The authorities of the self-proclaimed republic, lying between the main part of Moldova and Ukraine, accused Moldova of using Ukraine to attain its political goals, and said Ukraine was joining in the blockade imposed by Moldova.

Ukraine is one of the mediators in the regional conflict alongside Russia, the OSCE, the United States, and the European Union.

In an effort to reduce tensions on the Transdnestr-Ukraine border, Moscow sent a delegation to the self-proclaimed province Tuesday to look into the issue.

Later on Wednesday, the delegates will visit some other facilities in the province.

"It is not easy to resolve the issue within one visit, but we hope at least to give the situation some positive impulse," Kenyaikin said upon the arrival.

Transdnestr's status has been a bone of contention since the armed conflict in the province broke out in March 1992 after Moldova declared its independence from the Soviet Union and Transdnestr in turn proclaimed itself a 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 leader of Transdnestr in July 1992.

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