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    Transdnestr leader wants more Russian peacekeepers in region

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    The leader of Moldova's breakaway republic of Transdnestr asked Russia Thursday to increase the number of its peacekeepers in the region.

    MOSCOW, September 21 (RIA Novosti) - The leader of Moldova's breakaway republic of Transdnestr asked Russia Thursday to increase the number of its peacekeepers in the region.

    Transdnestr, which has a predominantly Russian-speaking population, proclaimed independence from Moldova in the early 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Armed clashes between Moldova and Transdnestr ensued, and Russia has been part of the peacekeeping mission in the breakaway region ever since.

    The Russian contingent originally numbered 3,100 peacekeepers but has been gradually reduced to 385.

    "We are asking Russia to increase its peacekeeping presence," Igor Smirnov said, adding that the self-proclaimed republic is strong enough to defeat Moldova in case of a military conflict.

    Transdnestr held a referendum last Sunday and voted for independence and future union with Russia.

    But the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe refuses to recognize the outcome. It said holding the referendum unilaterally was a threat to Moldova's territorial integrity, and that the event could heighten tensions in the region.

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