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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moldova Bristling Over Language

CHISINAU, Moldova -- Moldova's Foreign Ministry has accused Russia on of trying to legitimize the self-proclaimed republic of Transdnestr by calling its leader "president" in an official statement.

The statement was published by the Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday after a meeting in Moscow between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Igor Smirnov, the separatist leader in the pro-Russian Moldovan province.

Last month, the Russian Foreign Ministry called another Trandnestr official "foreign minister."

The Moldovan ministry urged Russia to refrain from using such language in the future, considering that Russia recognizes Moldova as a sovereign, undivided country.

By using terms normally reserved for independent states in its statement, Russia "is trying to artificially create the appearance of legitimacy and can mislead the public opinion and the international community," a statement from the Moldovan Foreign Ministry said. "Such propaganda raises questions and suspicions regarding Russia's objectivity ... as a mediator in the settlement negotiations in the Transdnestr conflict."

Moldova's communist government, which wants closer ties with the European Union, has clashed with Russia repeatedly over Moscow's support for the separatists.

Transdnestr, a province in eastern Moldova where large numbers of Russian troops were deployed, broke away in 1992 after a bloody war with Moldova which left over 1,500 people dead. Russia, which now is a mediator in the conflict, backs the separatists but does not officially recognize Transdnestr's independence.

Russia maintains about 1,500 troops in Transdnestr despite calls by the United States and the European Union to respect a 1999 pledge to withdraw them. Russian officials say Transdnestr is strategically important for Russia and withdrawing the troops would cause instability.