Moldova bars Russian deputy PM
Chisinau (AFP) - Moldova on Wednesday declared Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin persona non grata in the wake of a diplomatic spat that saw his plane barred from flying over Romania.
The move looks set to ratchet up tensions between Russia and Moldova's pro-Western government as a political tug-of-war rages inside the tiny ex-Soviet nation over its future direction.
Rogozin was supposed to make a visit to Moldova's pro-Russian figurehead president on Friday but the passenger plane he was travelling on was blocked by EU member Romania from crossing its airspace.
Bucharest said it had turned the commercial liner back because Rogozin is under an EU travel ban over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014.
The incident sparked ire in Moscow and saw Rogozin lash out furiously at the authorities in both Romania and Moldova.
In response Moldova's government announced it decided to officially ban Rogozin for "gross interference in the affairs of our country."
"The authorities of Moldova announce Dmitry Rogozin persona non grata on our territory," the country's foreign ministry said in a statement.
Wedged between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova has an East-West cultural, linguistic and political split. Its Russian-speaking Transdniestr region broke away after a brief civil war in the 1990s and declared independence backed by Moscow, which stations troops there.
The country's pro-EU government is locked in a bitter feud with Moscow-friendly president Igor Dodon, who wants to tear up a deal for closer ties with Brussels.
In May, Chisinau kicked out five Russian diplomats which saw Moscow turf out its officials in revenge.
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