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Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Tiny Moldova Faces Its East-West Moment of Truth

Author: Robert Coalson
April 23, 2014

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"Torn between Russia and the West, Moldova's fault lines are visible everywhere and are rendered more volatile by the country's weak sense of national identity. And the tension is clearly being strained by the crisis in neighboring Ukraine, as well as by Moldova's successful European-integration drive -- and Moscow's determination to prevent it."

CHISINAU -- It's a bright, sunny day and Chisinau residents are enjoying the first whiff of spring. Couples stroll through Cathedral Park, children chase pigeons, and families pose for photographs with a statue of the Easter Bunny.

In the shadow of the Arch of Triumph, a small crowd watches intently as two young men face off over a giant chessboard. The opponents are evenly matched. The board is nearly empty and the setting sun casts long shadows across the park as a draw is declared.

It could be a metaphor for the state of the nation.

Torn between Russia and the West, Moldova's fault lines are visible everywhere and are rendered more volatile by the country's weak sense of national identity. And the tension is clearly being strained by the crisis in neighboring Ukraine, as well as by Moldova's successful European-integration drive -- and Moscow's determination to prevent it.

"If it was possible in this way that Russia annexed Crimea, why not Donbass, Kherson, Mykolayiv, Odesa, Transdniester, and so on and so on," says Igor Botan, director of the Association for Participatory Democracy in Chisinau.

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