Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moldovan President Warns of Possible Tensions

CHISINAU, Moldova - Outgoing President Petru Lucinschi believes that plans by the dominant Communist Party to push for a union with Russia and Belarus could stoke tensions in Moldova, his spokesman said Thursday.

As well, Lucinschi thinks the Communists should not go ahead with plans to introduce Russian as a second language, said spokesman Anatol Golea.

The president said they were "electoral promises," rather than realistic goals, Golea added.

Pro-Moscow Communists won 71 of 101 parliamentary seats in February elections. Communist Party chief Vladimir Voronin, 59, made closer ties to Russia a central theme of his election campaign. He is expected to be Moldova's next president.

Voronin has proposed introducing Russian as a second official language alongside Moldovan, which is virtually identical to Romanian. He also said Moldova would consider joining a union with Russia and Belarus. Two-thirds of the population are ethnic Romanian, while most people speak both languages.

Voronin will call a referendum on both issues.

Moldova, a former Soviet republic of 4.3 million wedged between Romania and Ukraine, declared independence in 1991 - in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Since the Communists' unexpectedly clear victory, Voronin has sought to allay fears that he would make Moldova a Russian satellite. He pledged to continue relations with the West, international lending organizations and other former Soviet republic.

The Communists were widely supported by the country's poor. Two other parties won sufficient votes to make it into parliament, but another 14 parties failed to clear the 6 percent threshold.

A former baker turned police general, Voronin is expected to easily win the 61 votes needed in parliament to become president. He is half-Russian and half-Moldovan. Parliament is expected to meet Mar. 20.

The president, a post which is largely ceremonial, is appointed after a parliamentary vote.

Voronin was Moldova's Interior Minister when the country was still a Soviet republic.

He was responsible for reviving the country's Communist Party in 1994, ending a 3-year ban that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.