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Moldavians rebel against Soviet state

Thousands of ethnic Moldavians attacked checkpoints on the border with Romania on Wednesday, as an ethnic quarrel in the southwestern Soviet Union ballooned into revolt against communist rule. The militants, who seek closer ties to Romania, threatened to kill border guards and their families unless the Kremlin withdraws troops sent to Moldavia last week, the Tass news agency said.

The soldiers were sent Sunday to protect the Gagauz minority from Moldavian nationalist "volunteers" and to prevent a schism in the republic.

Although no large-scale acts of violence were reported, the attacks and threats marked the latest breakdown of Soviet authority and the Communist Party's standing in society.

Tass said the militants threw stones and set fire to a fence but relinquished control of two checkpoints after speaking with Moldavian leaders. No casualties were reported.

Part of Moldavia was Romanian territory until it was annexed by the Soviets during World War II. Some ethnic Moldavians want to secede from the Soviet Union and rejoin Romania.

The Gagauz, an ethnic minority numbering about 150,000, want to secede from Moldavia.

_ Information from the Associated Press, Reuters and the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

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