Transnistria, which broke away from Moldova in the early 1990s, can follow Crimea as a flashpoint, according to an opinion expressed recently by a contributor to The Wall Street Journal. Let us recall that residents of the breakaway unrecognized republic asked the Kremlin in 2006 to annex it to Russia, and the request was repeated this February. Russia stayed silent on the issue at the time. Residents of Gagauzia, another Moldovan enclave, also spoke in favor of breaking away from Moldova should it decide to join the EU. “There is a danger that Russia would use force to tear these provinces away from Moldova,” the publication emphasized.
Recently Ukraine expressed concern over actions of the Russian side on Transnistria, as laid out in acting foreign minister Andrii Deshchytsia’s statement. “The situation in Transnistria and Russian attempts to protect it send a very disturbing signal,” he said.
This topic was also discussed on March 31 during a telephone conversation between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin. In particular, the press service of the Kremlin noted: “Mr. Putin and Ms. Merkel also exchanged views on the situation in Transnistria. Mr. Putin noted the need for effective measures to end what amounts to an external blockade of the region and to find a fair and comprehensive solution to the Transnistrian problem.”
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry that Russia and the US had agreed to make effort to achieve the objectives shared by all, that is, the special status of Transnistria in a neutral, united and sovereign Moldova.
The Day turned to a program director of the Institute for Public Policy (Chisinau) Oazu NANTOI for a comment on how real was the danger of Russia annexing the unrecognized republic by force.
“Transnistria never acts independently, and continues to be an instrument in Russian hands. The eastern regions of the Republic of Moldova, which we call Transnistria, remain under military occupation and control of the Russian Federation. However, we cannot say that Transnistria is a monolith. Economic players from the left bank await a free trade regime with the EU. Moldovan passport holders there await visa-free regime with the EU. Should Moldova sign the Association Agreement with the EU and Russia refrain from any provocation, Transnistria is doomed to internal strife and finally absorption into Moldova, provided that you help us.”
Putin spoke with Merkel on March 31, and, according to his press service, they “exchanged views on the situation in Transnistria. Mr. Putin noted the need for effective measures to end what amounts to an external blockade of the region and to find a fair and comprehensive solution to the Transnistrian problem.” Why, in your opinion, does Putin put it this way?
“He does it because he has been stopped in Crimea, and is now losing Transnistria. I have been saying for quite some time, and your politicians are aware of it, that, had you failed to stop Putin in Crimea, he would establish a corridor to Transnistria. Since it looks like he is being stopped, Transnistria is now stranded, forcing Putin to suddenly express concern.”
Do you think that Putin’s plan to break through to Transnistria via Odesa region has failed?
“At the moment, these plans look very unlikely to succeed. It is so because immediately after the annexation of Crimea Russian provocateurs failed to create destabilization in the south-east of Ukraine, and now they cannot provoke popular rage. Of course, it is clear that there may still be provocations before the presidential election. However, in a situation where the international community has had figured out all these plans, I would like to believe that the audacity of Russian provocateurs will be met by the efficiency of the Ukrainian state.”
Still, why would not Putin use as a trump card the referendum in Transnistria that was held in 2006 and supported joining Russia?
“It was not a referendum, but a spectacle organized by security services, where people were driven like so much sheep to the polls, while the government invented figures that would please the Kremlin. In a democratic country, a referendum may only be held by free citizens, but not in an occupied territory. Everything that happens in an occupied territory is illegitimate.”
Finally, to what extent does the situation in Ukraine influence events in Moldova?
“Of course, Ukraine has historically been our shield against Russia. If not for Ukraine, Moldova would have long since become a Russian province. However, as Ukraine stands between us and Russia, the Heavenly Sotnia heroes sacrificed their lives for Moldova, too.”