Moldova's Trans-Dniesrt votes to join Russia

The majority of voters in Moldova's breakaway Trans-Dniester region approved the separatist government's bid to eventually join Russia, election officials said Monday.

Pyotr Denisenko, head of the Trans-Dniester Central Election Commission, said that 97.1 percent of voters had voted in favor of the region's 16-year-old independence course with the ultimate goal of union with Moscow.

Moldova and the West have vowed not to recognize the referendum, just as they have refused to recognize the Russian-speaking region's de facto independence. They have called on Trans-Dniester to return to talks with Moldova, aimed at giving the region broad autonomy but keeping it in Moldova.

Voters in Sunday's poll were also asked whether they wanted to abandon independence and reunite with Moldova, with whom separatists fought a 1992 war that killed 1,500 people. Denisenko said 94.6 percent voted against a union with Moldova, the AP says.

Russia has also given no indication that it intends to gobble up the impoverished slice of land, home to about 550,000 people, one-fifth of whom are already Russian citizens. Trans-Dniester shares no border with Russia, and the Kremlin has been cautious about assigning significant legal meaning to the referendum.