'Soviet occupation day' canned
Chisinau - Moldova's Constitutional Court on Monday cancelled a decree by the country's acting president which had established a "Soviet occupation day" and strained relations with major trade partner Russia.
The court ruled that Mihai Ghimpu, who is also parliament speaker, had no authority to set June 28 as a day of nationwide commemorations of the 1940 occupation. Ghimpu's move last month drew strong condemnation from Moscow.
Russia's consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor barred tens of thousands of bottles of Moldovan wine from sale this month and said it did not rule out a total ban on it - a move that would severely damage a vital sector of Moldova's economy.
Both opposition Communists and Ghimpu's allies from the pro-Western ruling bloc have criticised his decision and a number of cities and government bodies refused to observe it.
On June 28 1940 the Soviet Union annexed Bessarabia from Romania, most of which has since become known as Moldova, under a deal with Nazi Germany.
It briefly returned to Romania in the Germany-led attack on the Soviet Union. But after the Nazi defeat it became a Soviet republic, and throughout the Soviet period June 28 was marked as the date of Moldova's "liberation" from Romania.
A major trade spat with Russia would hurt the popularity of the ruling Alliance for European Integration ahead of a September 5 referendum which it hopes will help install one of the bloc's leaders as president.
Under current laws, the president is elected by parliament and the Alliance lacks enough seats to elect its candidate. The referendum will seek to make the head of state electable by popular vote.