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Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin blames Russia and the Tiraspol separatists for hampering the negotiations on the Transdniester dispute

In an interview with RFE/RL, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin criticized Russia's failure to live up to its international commitments and withdraw from Transdniester. Voronin said Russia should have already withdrawn troops and weapons from Transdniester under international agreements with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

On the other hand, Voronin rejected claims that customs regulations introduced recently by Ukraine at its border with Transniester would spark a humanitarian crisis in the breakaway region. He said the new rules -- under which Ukrainian officials demand that Moldovan authorities clear all Transdniestrian shipments -- regarded only Transdniester's exports.

Voronin said the customs issue was simply being blown out of proportion in order to hamper the negotiations process regarding the status of Transdniester. The negotiations have been deadlocked for years, despite a recent involvement of the European Union and the United States.

Voronin said that Moldova from now on would focus only on the issue of preserving its territorial integrity. "At the next round of negotiations, we must insist that negotiations deal only with the key issue: the status of Transdniester," he said.

The European Union's envoy to Moldova, Adriaan Jacobovits de Szeged, said on March 23 that invitations for a new round of negotiations on April 5-6 had already been sent to all the parties in the so-called "5+2" process, which involves Moldova and Transdniester, Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE as mediators, while the United States and the EU have observer status.