In wine-producing nation, Kerry highlights souring Moldova relations with Russia

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is toasting stronger economic ties with a former Soviet republic known for its wines. He's also subtly praising the country for going sour on Russia.

Kerry made a brief but symbolic happy-hour stop Wednesday in Moldova, days after the poor, wine-producing nation signed a European Union trade agreement that is widely seen as a decisive step away from Moscow's influence.

Kerry did not mention Russia by name in comments praising Moldova for its Western economic aspirations. But U.S. and Western officials have accused Moscow of trying to muscle in on several former Soviet states, including Moldova and Ukraine.

Ukraine is undergoing a surge of upheaval over President Viktor Yanukovych's shelving of an anticipated agreement to forge stronger ties with the European Union.