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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Agrees to Withdraw Troops from Moldovan Soil

KISHINYOV, Moldova -- Russia and Moldova on Wednesday agreed that Russian troops would pull out of the restive region in three years, Interfax said.


The agreement came after tense negotiations marred by the walkout Tuesday of observers from Moldova's self-proclaimed Transdnestr republic, which is torn by one of several unresolved ethnic conflicts in the former Soviet Union.


The news agency said the three-year timetable will come into force when Russian and Moldovan leaders sign the withdrawal agreement.


Moldova, dominated by ethnic Romanians, is uneasy about the Russian military presence and had wanted Moscow's troops out within 18 months.


The talks were complicated by diverse interests and the continuing controversy over the future of Russian Lieutenant General Alexander Lebed, whose 14th Army is stationed in Transdnestr. Transdnestr separatists wanted the army to remain until the status of Transdnestr is settled, and even walked out of the talks at one point.


The withdrawal agreement appeared to take into account some of their claims.


The news agency said the troop pullout would be "synchronized with the political settlement of the Transdnestr conflict and defining the region's special status."


Transdnestr, a breakaway republic in eastern Moldova, was the site of a 1991-1992 civil war between Russian-speaking separatists and the central Moldovan government. About 1,500 people were killed.


The region has been quiet since the 14th Army, numbering about 2,000 soldiers, was sent there in 1992.


But unrest has been brewing in the 14th Army, complicating the picture. There are reports Lebed, an outspoken and popular commander, is on his way out.


Russian Defense Ministry officials say they plan to reorganize the 14th Army but deny Lebed's job is in danger.