Lying in the fertile, hilly plains between the Prut and Dniester (Dnestr) rivers, the small former Soviet republic of Moldova (Moldavia) became embroiled in a bloody inter-ethnic conflict after proclaiming its independence in September 1991. Fighting erupted between Moldovans (ethnic Rumanians, but culturally distinct) and Slav separatists (ethnic Russians and Ukranians), who feared Moldova would join with neighboring Rumania in the west and sought self-rule in the region east of the Dniester River (Trans-Dniester). The 14th divisiono of the Russian army, stationed in Moldova, provided arms and sometimes troops to the Slav insurgents, who defeated the Moldovan forces in several battles, notably that for Tighina (Bendery), in June 1992. An agreement signed by Russia's President Boris Yeltsin (1931-) and Moldova's President Mircea I. Snegur (1940-) in July 1992 led to a cease-fire and a joint peacekeeping force in the Trans-Dniester region, where the residents established (1993) the autonomous "Dniester Republic" and later (1995) held legislative elections and approved a separatists consititution. Moldova, which adopted a new constitution in 1994, secured the eventual withdrawal of Russian troops from its territory and signed a peace memorandum with the breakaway Dniester Republic on May 8, 1997.