A row has erupted among leaders of Moldova's ruling coalition over Russia's World War Two Victory Day celebrations, with the president backtracking on a decision to keep Moldovan troops away from a Moscow parade.
Acting President Mihai Ghimpu, a sharp critic of Russian policy who blames Moscow for supporting the breakaway territory of Transdniestria, last week banned the defence ministry from sending a 70-man unit to take part in the May 9 festivities.
The reason given by Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, for staying away from the 65th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany was lack of the $35,000 required to cover the stay of its soldiers.
But Ghimpu, who heads the right-wing Liberal party in the ruling four-party Alliance for European Integration, reluctantly backed down on Monday after a revolt among other coalition leaders.
"I am against taking part in the parade. But I am a team player. Three out of the Alliance's four parties were in favour of the parade, so I have bowed to the collective decision," he told Vocea Basarabie radio.
The four-party coalition took power in the former Soviet republic in July 2009 in a snap parliamentary election that ended eight years of rule by the communist party.
The communists were quick to take advantage of the division over the May 9 parade, with ex-President Vladimir Voronin stepping in to say his party was ready to cover the costs of Moldovan troops in Moscow.
Ghimpu, who favours close ties with neighbouring Romania with which Moldova has a common historical, cultural and linguistic heritage, admitted the Alliance was under strain over the issue.
"I have been forced to back down for the sake of preserving the Alliance and some leaders might use this. I am sure that the electorate will punish them for this in the next election," Ghimpu said.
70 guards of honour
Prime Minister Vlad Filat, who heads the Liberal Democrats in the coalition, publicly admonished the defence minister for following Ghimpu's order to stay away from the Moscow parade.
A company of 70 Moldovan guards of honour will now attend the parade which is expected to be one of the biggest post-Soviet demonstrations of Russian military might.
Ghimpu has been forthright in his criticism of Russian policy and has passed harsh judgment on its role in the region.
In particular, he has criticised Moscow over its policy in Transdniestria, a strip of Russian-speaking territory running down Moldova's eastern border which has been beyond the control of the Chisinau central government since fighting a brief war with Moldova in 1992.
About 1,200 Russian soldiers remain there guarding tonnes of Soviet-era weaponry and ammunition.
Ghimpu said he himself would not attend the Moscow celebrations on May 9. "I can not forget misfortunes such as the deportation and the organised famine through which the citizens of Moldova passed in Soviet times," he told Vocea Basarabie.
ReutersLast Mod: 26 Nisan 2010, 21:04