Moldovan President Meets Putin, Gets Award

President Vladimir Putin met with Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin in the Kremlin on Tuesday to discuss trade and possibly a solution for the issue of Transdnestr.

Voronin, who four years ago irritated Moscow with pledges to integrate his tiny, impoverished country into Europe, welcomed greater cooperation between Russia and Moldova, which he said Tuesday had to "evolve into true strategic partnership."

A visibly pleased Putin said he would be glad to discuss further development of relations between the two countries, after which the meeting moved behind closed doors.

The past year has seen a thaw in relations between the two former Soviet republics: Voronin has met with Putin four times and at the end of October Russia called off an embargo on Moldovan wine, tobacco and fruit, in effect since March 2006.

On Monday, Voronin, the head of Moldova's Communist Party, received an award for "Outstanding Work to Strengthen the Unity of Orthodox Christian Peoples" from Patriarch Alexy II for resisting the expansion of the Romanian Orthodox church into Moldovan parishes.

The latest visit came with a resolution looming on the status of Kosovo, which would strengthen demands for recognition by Moldova's separatist and Moscow-leaning Transdnestr republic.