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Moldovan Trans-Dniester Region Holds Independence Referendum

The Moldovan breakaway region of Trans-Dniester is holding a non-binding referendum on independence Sunday.

The referendum asks voters whether they favor re-uniting with Moldova, or declaring independence and work toward joining the Russian Federation. Reports say voters are expected to overwhelmingly vote in favor of independence. Results are expected Monday.

The referendum is seen as largely symbolic because it is not officially recognized by the Moldovan government, and Trans-Dniester itself is not internationally recognized by any country as a separate state.

Trans-Dniester is located along Moldova's eastern border with Ukraine. The province broke away from Moldova in 1992, and Russian troops have reinforced an uneasy truce there since.

Moldova's official language is Romanian, but most residents of Trans-Dniester speak Russian and claim close ties to Russia.

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin hopes to follow the lead of some other former Soviet republics, such as Ukraine and the three Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, in trying to steer his country toward European Union membership and stronger ties with NATO.

Trans-Dniester is among several breakaway provinces and ethnic enclaves in former Soviet republics looking for closer ties with Russia.

Georgia has two such separatist regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s and is seeking unification with Russia's neighboring Caucasus region of North Ossetia. South Ossetia is not internationally recognized, but has scheduled an independence referendum for November 12.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.