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Washington (AFP) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took another swipe at Russia on Monday, saying that Moscow “has put pressure on Moldova,” as he backed the former Soviet state in seeking closer ties with the West.

Kerry, who has lambasted Russia over its military actions in Ukraine, another former Soviet state and neighbor, was speaking after meeting in Washington Moldovan Prime Minister Lurie Leanca, who is seeking closer ties with the European Union.

“I regret to say that Russia, in some of the challenges we’re seeing right now in Ukraine, has put pressure on Moldova,” said Kerry. “There are challenges with respect to their energy sources and also their ability to trade. We are committed firmly to the direction that Moldova has chosen for itself.”

Russia has strong ties with separatist movements in Moldova’s Russian-speaking region of Transdniestr and has not met long-standing pledges to withdraw its soldiers from the country, which it committed to do in 1999. Russia also keeps a large amount of armaments there.

Pledging additional funding to Moldova, the top US diplomat added: “The prime minister is leading a transformation effort in Moldova. We are very pleased with the fact that they continue their efforts to move towards their association agreement with Europe.”

Leanca said: “Moldova is keen to build an energy interconnection with the European Union and American support is critical in this perspective.”

“Same about the security cooperation. We see right now in the region some very negative developments unfolding,” Leanca added, referring to Ukraine, which has accused Russia of pouring troops into Crimea, in Europe’s worst standoff since the Cold War.

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