Romania: Putin is creating a Black Sea barrier

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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's president said Monday that Russia has created a chain of conflicts around the Black Sea to further President Vladimir Putin's goal of rebuilding the former Soviet Union along its former border with the West.

Romanian President Traian Basescu, who spoke to The Associated Press in an interview Monday, said he fears that neighboring Moldova is "in great danger."

"If you look at the map, you will see this chain of frozen conflicts" around the Black Sea "that can be set off at any time," he said, referring to conflicts in Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.

Basescu said Putin's priorities "seem to be connected to the point of contact between the European Union and NATO." He said Ukraine and Moldova were "a priority for Vladimir Putin, who wants to rebuild the Soviet Union."

Russia has 1,500 troops stationed in the separatist republic of Trans-Dniester since 1990, when it broke away from Moldova, fearing that country would reunite with Romania. Trans-Dniester is not internationally recognized but is supported by Russia.

The European Union on Monday slapped a travel ban on 21 Russian and Crimean officials after Crimea voted to split from Ukraine and join Russia. Basescu said the EU was planning further sanctions later this week — ones he called "extremely severe" — that would freeze the assets of Russian business people in the EU, stop financial exchanges and energy trades and halt arms sales to Russia.

Romania is one of the EU's 28 nations.

The Romanian leader, who leaves office after 10 years this year, ruled out a wider war in Europe, saying that neither Russia nor NATO wanted a full-scale conflict. He said there was still a risk of political instability in the region because of possible fallout from the sanctions.

"Many regional governments and European governments have to see whether they themselves can put up with the (EU) sanctions (on Russia)," he said.

There was nobody available at the Russian Foreign Ministry late Monday to comment on the statements by Basescu.

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Lynn Berry in Moscow contributed to this report.

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