Breakaway Transdniestria still wants to join Russia - RIA cites foreign minister

Flags of Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniestria and Russia flutter in central Tiraspol

(Reuters) -The goal of Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniestria to become a part of Russia remains unaffected by the war in neighbouring Ukraine, the region's foreign minister told RIA Novosti news agency on Friday.

Transdniestria, which is internationally recognised as part of Moldova, lies on a thin strip of land along Ukraine's southwest border. Its status dates to the collapse of the Soviet Union, when a military conflict broke out between pro-Moldovan and pro-Russian factions over the future of the region.

A 1992 ceasefire deal ended the fighting but froze the region's political status, and it now exists as a breakaway state within Moldova that relies on support from Moscow.

Transdniestria's Foreign Minister Vitaly Ignatiev told RIA news agency that Moscow's "special military operation" in Ukraine had not affected his region's aim to officially join Russia, in line with its 2006 referendum.

"The vector of Transdniestria has remained unchanged throughout the republic's existence - reflected in the results of the referendum on September 17, 2006, where it is clearly stated: independence with free accession to the Russian Federation," RIA Novosti quoted Ignatiev as saying.

In a conference call with reporters on Friday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he had nothing to say about Ignatiev's comments.

After Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, fears rose in Kyiv that Moscow could use Transdniestria - and the hundreds of Russian troops still stationed there as peacekeepers - to invade Ukraine from a fourth direction.

The breakaway region's capital, Tiraspol, is just 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Ukraine's strategically important Black Sea port city of Odesa.

Officials in Transdniestria have denied their region could be used as a springboard for attacking Ukraine.

Moldova, like Ukraine, aspires to join NATO and the European Union, goals strongly opposed by Moscow which sees any encroachment by the Western clubs into former Soviet territory as a threat to its own security.

(Reporting by ReutersEditing by Gareth Jones)