What is Transnistria?
Transnistria covers an area of 4,163 square kilometers between the eastern bank of the Dniester River in Moldova and the country’s Ukrainian border. The majority of the 500,000 inhabitants are Russian-speaking (Russian-speaking), although the inhabitants are ethnically Moldovan, Ukrainian or Russian (in the latter case about 30% of the total population).
The attempt to make Moldova the official language of Moldova in 1989 alarmed the people of Transnistria, who gradually severed ties with the Moldovan capital, Chisinau.
Transnistria was declared a republic on October 29, 1990. In its capital, Tiraspol, it occupies about 12% of Moldova’s territory and guarantees 23% of the country’s industrial production, as well as controlling crucial transport routes and pipelines.
For this reason, Moldova is demanding that it regain control of this area of independence, which no country, including Russia, has ever recognized.
The fighting intensified in March 1992 and lasted until the ceasefire in July. However, the conflict remained dormant until 1993, when local separatists secured Russian support.
According to the ceasefire agreement, a group of Russian soldiers (currently about 1,500) were sent to Transnistria, whose formal task was to set up a peacekeeping force. The Russian branch of Transnistria is seeking to manage ammunition stockpiles and stockpiles, and its suitability for combat is uncertain.
Since then, the region has called for secession from Moldova, a former Soviet republic that declared independence in 1991. Transnistria has retained much of its Soviet iconography, including a hammer and sickle on its flag. But for the most part, the area remained calm.
disputes to be settled
The Russian-speaking part has rejected the accession of Moldova to Romania, as its Romanian people want. The controversy that provoked the 1992 Civil War, according to several sources, killed between 700 and 1,500.
The fragile ceasefire of 21 July 1992 provided for the granting of a “special status” to Transnistria in return for its independence, but the region continued to defend its objectives, while Moldova called for the integration of two separate territories. and accused Russia of inciting the independence of this regional band when Moscow demanded its “special status.”
What happened at the end of April?
Of the “frozen conflict zones” of the former Soviet Union, this long eastern Moldova has been stable for the past three decades.
However, the recent explosions in Tiraspol have raised fears about the spread of the Ukrainian war to this border area. And a new conflict would be a serious challenge for Moldova, one of the poorest countries and one of the weakest armies in all of Europe.
On Monday, April 25, several explosions occurred in the building of the State Security Department. The building was empty due to the Orthodox Easter holiday and no injuries were reported. According to official sources, the attacks were carried out with rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPGs). On Tuesday morning, two explosions at a radio TV center in the town of Maiaki caused extensive damage to two powerful antennas. No action was required.
Referring to the self-proclaimed President of the Transnistrian Republic, Vadim Krasnoselski, referring to “three terrorist attacks”, suggested action was taken at Kiev’s request and demanded 15 days of counter-terrorism security measures and red, including checkpoints at city entrances. An attack on a “military unit” in Parcan was also reported.
The Russian-speaking authorities have maintained calculations of ambiguity over the war in neighboring Ukraine, fearing catastrophic consequences for its territory if military interference occurs and when the region’s economic situation deteriorates due to import restrictions imposed by Moldova.
The Moldovan government understands that these attacks were intended to create a “reason to strengthen the security situation” in the breakaway region, which is beyond its control, but said it saw no signs of an immediate Russian attack in the region.
“Our analysis is that there are tensions within Transnistria between different factions (…). These escalation comes from Transnistrian internal forces, which have an interest in destabilizing the region, “said President Maia Sandu after a meeting with the National Security Council. He also recalled that Moldova was a” neutral state “and called for its status to be respected. Moldova has not joined the West. Sanctions against Russia decided after Ukraine’s attack, but tensions in Transnistria pose a serious problem for a small Balkan state.
Does Russia have any goals in this area?
Russia did not recognize the independence of Transnistria, unlike in other breakaway regions, such as South Ossetia, Abkhazia, or Donbass in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Lugansk.
The recognition of these areas came after Russia and Georgia went to war, or as a justification for Ukraine’s attack in February.
The return of the Transnistrian conflict could change the Kremlin’s political calculations. Russia’s security policy states that it has the right to protect populations of Russian “ethnic origin” throughout the world. However, achieving the goal of managing the whole of southern Ukraine, especially the Black Sea coast and the important port of Odessa, would require significant struggles. Russian soldiers would certainly face great resistance, but an attack from this area would facilitate the conquest of nearby Odessa, a Black Sea coastal city.
At the same time, analysts have acknowledged that Ukraine could quickly conquer this enclave because of the poor preparation of Russian troops stationed there. But if Russia conquers Odessa, the breakaway region would integrate into the Kremlin-occupied territories of Ukraine, with serious consequences for the entire country.
Moldova is constitutionally neutral, so Russia cannot claim that the country wants to join NATO to justify an attack, as Russian President Vladimir Putin did with Ukraine. But enlargement to Moldova would allow Russia to secure its presence at the borders of Romania, a member of NATO. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared the Transnistrian region “occupied by Russia” on 16 March.
The path to independence
On December 1, 1991, presidential and independent elections were held in Transnistria, which were not recognized by Moldova or the international community, and Igor Smirnov was elected President.
Four years later, on 24 December 1995, a bicameral parliament with 67 members was elected and a constitutional referendum was held, with 81% in favor of a constitution of independence.
Transnistria was again challenged by Moldova in a legislative vote in December 2005 in which ten parties are nominated, all in favor of independence, including the main rivals Republic and Renovation.
In a referendum on accession to Russia or Moldova on 17 September 2006, an overwhelming “yes” (97%) was recorded for accession to Russia.
Following Russia’s military invasion of neighboring Ukraine on 24 February, the Moldovan parliament declared a state of emergency for fear that Russia would mobilize troops stationed in Transnistria to support the attack on the city of Odessa, less than 100 kilometers away.
More than 20,000 tons of Soviet weapons have remained in Transnistria since the end of the Cold War.
On 5 March, Moldova formally applied for membership of the European Union, and the authorities of the self-proclaimed Republic of Transnistria called for recognition of its independence.