What do you know about Transnistria, the Russian-backed region that Putin might look to after Ukraine 2022-04-27 11:12:58

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Ukraine described the bombings as a planned provocation by the Russian security services. Ukraine also blamed Russia for Tuesday’s launch of cruise missiles at a bridge across the mouth of the Dniester River, suggesting that Moscow is trying to cut off the southwestern corner of Ukraine at the border with Moldova.

Explosions and drip comments by Russian officials about the region — including a senior Russian commander who said the army’s plan to seize southern Ukraine would open a land corridor extending into Transnistria — have raised deep concern in Moldova that the disputed territories within its borders are included in Russian President Vladimir’s war strategy. .

Transnistria is not recognized by the international community, which considers it part of Moldova. But the capital of Moldova, Chisinau, has no control over the territory, which declared itself a republic more than three decades ago.

Here’s what you need to know about the area.

disputed land

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 gave rise to a few areas of “frozen conflict” in Eastern Europe – often unstable regions where loyalties have been hotly contested since the creation of the 15 post-Soviet states.

Those regions include the breakaway states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, within the territory of Georgia, and a landslide along Moldova’s border with Ukraine known as Transnistria.

The area — 1,300 square miles on the east bank of the Dniester River — was the site of a Russian military outpost during the final years of the Cold War. It declared itself a Soviet republic in 1990, and opposed any attempt by Moldova to become an independent state or to integrate with Romania.

When Moldova became independent the following year, Russia quickly inserted itself as a “peacekeeping force” in Transnistria, sending troops to support pro-Moscow separatists there.

A war broke out with the Moldovan forces; The conflict ended in a stalemate in 1992. Transnistria was not recognized internationally, even by Russia, but Moldovan forces left it a de facto breakaway state. This predicament has left the region and its estimated population of 500,000 stuck in limbo.

A Russian officer (left), a Moldavian soldier (center) and a Transnistrian soldier (right) stand on guard in the security zone, which separates Moldova and Transnistria along the Dniester River, in 2002.
Since then, Transnistria has hosted and developed thousands of Russian troops – currently estimated at 1,500 Reputation as a land lost over timea Soviet wormhole inside a young transitional Moldovan democracy.

It has a flag, a constitution and a national bank and celebrates its independence day.

Major thoroughfares to its capital, Tiraspol, include Lenin Avenue, Strada Karl Marx and October 25th Street – commemorating the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. A towering statue of Vladimir Lenin stands in the center of the city’s main square.

Transnistria has always been fueled by its industrial production, and its economy is highly dependent on Russian subsidies. A conglomerate called Sheriff is almost everywhere, owns many of its factories, supermarkets and gas stations and lends its name to the area’s football club, FC Sheriff, which competes in the Moldovan national league and last year scored a famous Champions League victory over Real Madrid.

Ethnic Moldovan, Russian and Ukrainian all live in the area. It runs its own presidential and regional elections, although international observers say the opposition has been suppressed and that there is a lack of real competition at the polls.
The US NGO Freedom House, which tracks trends in global governments, categorize the territory as “not free”.
Statue of Vladimir Lenin in front of the presidential palace in Tiraspol.

“The impartiality and pluralism of opinion in the media is very limited, and the authorities closely control the activity of civil society,” it said in its latest global report.

Despite occasional negotiations with Moldova, the prospect of a solution to the Transnistria question remained bleak.

“The region of secession continues to pose a challenge to a united and developed Moldova,” USAID Written in 2020.

“There is a risk that those who do not have business, family or personal ties on the other side of the river will increasingly feel alienated from their colleagues in Moldova, fostering the kind of mistrust and misunderstanding that could further impede the resolution of this conflict,” the agency said. .

What are Russia’s plans for Transnistria?

Concerns about Russia’s long-term plans for Transnistria never faded – they were exacerbated by Moscow’s invasion of Crimea in 2014.

This invasion raised long-standing fears that Putin would seek to invade and control southern Ukraine. The Russian-backed separatist enclave on Ukraine’s southwestern tip could now potentially mark the end of any Russian offensive westward from Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region.

The supposed Russian “peacekeeping” presence in Transnistria, which in practice saw the Kremlin backing a puppet state seeking to undermine Moldova’s sovereignty, also reflects Moscow’s pretext for invading Georgia and Ukraine.

Alarm bells sounded in Moldova and in the West after the Kremlin’s familiar refrain from violating Russians’ rights in Transnistria — another argument Putin used to justify his February invasions of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, which contained two separatists. States supported by Russia.

“It is alleged that there, in Moldova, the rights of Russian speakers have been violated,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech last Friday. “Although, frankly, Russia should be concerned with the rights of Russian-speaking people is Russia itself: where there is no freedom of expression, no freedom of choice. Where there is simply no right to disagree. And where poverty thrives and human life is of no value.”

After Russia invaded Ukraine, Western countries immediately monitored activity in regions outside the country, including Transnistria.

Soldiers celebrate the anniversary of their country's unrecognized independence.

Some Ukrainian officials have also indicated that Russia will at some point rely on a battalion of troops stationed in Transnistria, especially after Moscow suffered a large number of troop and equipment losses in the first weeks of its offensive on the country.

“Of course, sometime sooner or later they will use it,” Odessa Mayor Hanadi Trukhanov said in televised remarks this month. “It’s hard to say in which direction, but there is a threat. (Ukrainian armed forces) know this and are working on it.”

But the most direct and unequivocal statement on the region to date came from Major General Rustam Minkayev of Russia’s Central Military District on Friday.

Russia’s state news agency TASS quoted the general as saying the country’s goal was to create a land corridor between Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and Crimea, adding that controlling southern Ukraine would give Russian forces access to Transnistria – a strategy Chisinau had long pursued. He was afraid that would be Putin’s target.

But the most direct and unequivocal statement on the region to date came from Major General Rustam Minkayev of Russia’s Central Military District on Friday.

Russia’s state news agency TASS quoted the general as saying the country’s goal was to create a land corridor between Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and Crimea, adding that controlling southern Ukraine would give Russian forces access to Transnistria – a strategy Chisinau had long pursued. He was afraid that would be Putin’s target.

Moldova and Ukraine on alert

Two days after Minkayev’s statements, a series of explosions were heard in the area.

A correspondent of the Russian news agency (Ria-Novosti) said that strong explosions were heard in Tiraspol and the windows of neighboring houses were damaged.

Immediately, Ukrainian officials indicated that the bombings were part of the Kremlin’s effort to create a narrative that could precede Russian military action.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement that three days before the incident, the leaders of the separatist region were “already preparing for this and making sure to erect a safe and comfortable bunker” at the Ministry of State Security, which was damaged in the bombings. .

Children walk near the headquarters of the Executive Group of Russian forces in the town of Tiraspol last year.

“It is clear that this case is one of a number of provocative actions organized by the FSB (Russia’s security service) to create panic and anti-Ukrainian sentiment,” she said.

Two radio towers were damaged on Tuesday morning. The site where the explosions occurred is known as the “Transnistrian Radio and Television Center,” which was built in the 1960s and is one of 14 radio transmission centers from the Soviet era, according to the Transnistrian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Ukraine also blamed Russia for Tuesday’s launch of cruise missiles at a bridge across the mouth of the Dniester River. The road and railway bridge connect Odessa with the far southwestern corner of Ukraine on the border with Moldova; The damage basically cuts the area.

Maxim Marchenko, head of the Odessa Military Administration, said that Russia used three missiles, one of which hit the bridge. “By his actions, the enemy is trying to cut off part of the Odessa region and create tension amid the events” in Transnistria, Marchenko said. Another attack on the bridge caused further damage on Wednesday.

Moldova’s President Maya Sandu on Tuesday condemned the attacks inside Transnistria, describing them as “provocations” aimed at dragging the country into “acts that could endanger peace”.

“Our analysis shows that there are tensions between forces within that region that are interested in destabilizing the situation. This makes Transnistria vulnerable and creates risks for the Republic of Moldova,” she said at a press conference after an emergency meeting of the country’s Security Council.

Sandow recounted a number of events that continued with this week’s bombings, including several bomb alerts at schools and medical facilities. It blamed “pro-war factions” for trying to “escalate tensions” in the region.

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