Moldova’s separatist Transnistria rumoured to be seeking unification with Russia

Moldova’s separatist Transnistria rumoured to be seeking unification with Russia
A tank monument in Tiraspol, capital of the breakaway Transnistria republic. / bne IntelliNews
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest February 23, 2024

A congress in Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region — the sixth of this kind in thirty years — will reportedly ask Russia to make it part of the Federation on February 28, and President Vladimir Putin will ask lawmakers in Moscow to endorse the request on February 29, according to rumours spread by opposition politician Gennadiy Chorba, quoted by European Pravda.

There are no solid grounds for such a radical scenario, which has been refuted by both the Moldovan government and Ukrainian intelligence. However, the congress in the Russia-backed separatist region may see less extreme developments or statements along these lines, bringing the topic of a split from Moldova and unification with Russia higher on the agenda.

The Moldovan authorities responded by playing down the rumours. "Based on the information we have, there are no grounds to believe that the situation in the region could deteriorate," Moldova's Bureau of Integration said in a statement.

At the same time, the bureau said that it was convinced that "Tiraspol is aware of the consequences in case of ill-considered steps”.

The scenario sketched by Chorba on February 22, partly based on the timing of the congress in Transnistria and Putin’s planned statements in parliament, was also rejected later the same day by Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence’s spokesman Andrii Yusov.

"According to our information, the claim that on 28 February the Transnistrian ‘authorities’ are going to ask Russia about joining its territory is currently unconfirmed," Yusov said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s ambassador to Chisinau Marko Shevchenko assured Moldova of its country’s full military support if tensions escalate in Transnistria. Shevchenko also said that Russia has lost credibility and the 5+2 negotiation format for Transnistria is no longer viable. 

Russia has so far not recognised Transnistria as an independent state, and the breakaway region, sandwiched between the rest of Moldova and Ukraine, does not have a border with Russia. 

However, comments by Russian officials are increasingly targeting Transnistria and the alleged pressures exerted by the Moldovan authorities on the separatists.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Mikhail Galuzin, speaking to Izvestia, expressed confidence that Russia "has all the possibilities to defend the [Russian] inhabitants of Transnistria in case [Moldova] attempts to resolve the Transnistrian problem by force".

Separately, Transnistrian MP Vadim Kravchuk told the Tiraspol TV channel TSV that the goal of the congress is to confirm that Tiraspol still wants to be integrated into the territory of Russia.

"Holding another referendum makes no sense, but it would be quite reasonable to confirm a previous decision … Transnistria expressed its desire to unite with Russia and the Eurasian Union back in 2006. The congress of the MPs of all levels will most likely confirm our intentions," he said.