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RPT-Romania ships first batch of AstraZeneca vaccine to Moldova

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(Repeats for wider distribution with no changes to text)

BUCHAREST, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Romania shipped its first donation of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to neighbouring Moldova on Saturday to safeguard frontline doctors, Prime Minister Florin Citu said.

In December, Romania's centrist President Klaus Iohannis said Bucharest would donate 200,000 doses of vaccine to Moldova, in a gesture of solidarity following the election of the pro-Western President Maia Sandu.

A former World Bank economist, Sandu defeated the pro-Moscow incumbent Igor Dodon in a presidential election, promising to fight endemic corruption and put Moldova's relations with the European Union back on track.

The eastern European country of 3.5 million, where the West and Russia vie for influence, has been rocked in recent years by instability and corruption scandals, including the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system.

"Romania keeps its promise ... Today we deliver the first doses, 21,600 of AstraZeneca. It is the first batch of the 200,000 total that we offer as humanitarian aid. The rest will follow in the coming months," Citu said on his Facebook page.

Moldova's medical agency on Friday said it had approved Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19, despite Sandu saying it could not be registered until the World Health Organisation had done so. (Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Christina Fincher)