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Europe-minded Moldova feels the heat of Russia's war in Ukraine

By Alexander Tanas

CHISINAU (Reuters) - Moldova, a small and poor country with a Romanian-speaking majority between Ukraine and Romania, has been pulled between Russia and the West since gaining independence from Moscow with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It has been pushed centre-stage by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has drawn attention to the almost 3,000 Russian soldiers stationed in Transdniestria, a mainly Russian-speaking breakaway sliver of Moldova.

President Maia Sandu, who has sought fast-track membership of the European Union and faced growing economic problems and street protests, has accused Moscow of plotting a pro-Russian coup, an accusation denied by Moscow.

Following is a timeline of events in Moldova's three-decade history as a buffer between Russia and the West:

Aug. 27, 1991: Moldova declares independence following a failed coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

March-July 1992: Fighting erupts with separatists in Transdniestria. Russian troops intervene and there is a ceasefire. Transdniestria has remained beyond the control of Chisinau ever since.

April 7, 2009: After communists win a parliamentary election, protesters seize and torch parliament and the presidential residence in the capital, Chisinau.

Nov. 29, 2013: Moldova initials an association agreement with the EU, The following year Russia restricts Moldova's agricultural exports.

2014-2015: Around $1 billion is looted from Moldova's banking system in a corruption scandal that brings economic and political crisis.

Dec. 23, 2016 - Pro-Russian president Igor Dodon takes office.

Nov. 15, 2020: Pro-Western candidate Maia Sandu overwhelmingly defeats Dodon to become president.

March 3, 2022: A week after Russia invades Ukraine, Moldova applies for fast-track EU membership.

March onwards - Moldova receives over 300,000 Ukrainian refugees although most eventually go elsewhere.

April 22 - A senior Russian officer says Moscow has a plan to take full control of southern Ukraine and improve its access to Transdniestria.

Aug. 4 - Moldova says the price of gas from Russia's Gazprom - on which it depends - will rise 16% in September after surging almost 50% in August.

Nov. 21 - Sandu says protesters in Chisinau are financed by Russia via the party of exiled businessman Ilan Shor, who was convicted of fraud in connection with the 2014-15 bank scandal.

Dec. 16 - Moldova suspends six television channels for airing "incorrect information", including about Russia's war in Ukraine. The channels are closely tied to Shor, who fled in 2019.

Feb. 9 - Ukraine says it has shown Sandu a Russian intelligence plan for "the destruction of Moldova".

Feb. 10 - Pro-Western government of Natalia Gavrilita resigns.

Feb. 13 - Sandu accuses Russia of planning to use foreign saboteurs to overthrow Moldova's leadership and prevent the country joining the EU.

Feb. 16 - Parliament approves a pro-Western government under Dorin Recean, 48.

Feb. 20 - The Kremlin says relations are very tense and accuses Moldova's leaders of pursuing an anti-Russian agenda.

Feb. 21 - U.S. President Joe Biden affirms support for Moldova's sovereignty in a meeting with Sandu.

Feb. 22 - President Vladimir Putin revokes a 2012 decree that committed Russia to seeking ways to resolve the Transdniestria issue based on respect for Moldova's "sovereignty, territorial integrity and neutral status".

Feb. 23 - Moldova dismisses a Russian accusation that Ukraine plans to invade Transdniestria after a false flag operation.

(Reporting by Alexander Tanas and Peter Graff; Compiled by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Timothy Heritage)