Russian officials warn of rising tensions in Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria

By bne IntelliNews May 25, 2015

bne IntelliNews -


Tensions in Moldova’s pro-Russian separatist region Transnistria have increased, the president of the region, Evgheni Sevciuk, was quoted by Deutsche Welle as saying on May 22, after Ukraine terminated an agreement with Russia on the transit of Russian troops to and from Transnistria.

The Ukrainian parliament’s decision to formally cancel transit rights for Russian troops has created major logistical problems for Russian troops stationed in the Moldovan separatist republic of Transnistria. Under an agreement signed in Sochi in November 1995, Kyiv allowed Russia to transit troops to Transnistria through Ukrainian territory.

Russia stations between 1,000 and 1,500 troops in Transnistria, officially to protect the 20,000 tonnes of military equipment and ammunition that have remained on Moldovan territory since the days when it was part of the Soviet Union. Some 70% of the Russian troops are, however, of Transnistrian origin, DW states.

The delicate military situation comes on top of economic challenges for the separatist region. Public wages and pensions have been cut by 30%, supposedly temporarily but with no clear deadline. The remaining 70% is often left unpaid as revenues to the budget have plunged. Industrial activity contracted a further 17% in April, and half of industrial production is currently generated by power production that is primarily delivered to Moldova, and produced from Russian gas that is not paid for.

Transnistria is under siege and in eastern Moldova a war could occur, Russian MP Leonid Kalashnikov stressed. Both Moldova and Ukraine have signed Association Agreements with the EU, and they are exerting economic pressures on Transnistria, he argued. No Transnistrian company is included by Moldova on the list of entities that can trade freely on the European markets, he added.

Ukraine's attempts to destabilise the situation in Transnistria could be important under the circumstances of an open conflict in Ukraine, President Sevciuk stressed.

Meanwhile, the New York Times examined how, in a long feature headlined "Moldova Eyes Russia’s Embrace as Flirtation With Europe Fades" published on May 21, Moldovans are tiring of efforts to join the EU and are instead looking toeward Russia. It cited a recent opinion poll carried out by the Institute for Public Policy, a Moldova research group, which found that only 32% of those surveyed would support joining the EU (an option not currently available), while 50% said they would prefer to join the Russian-led trade bloc the Eurasian Economic Union (which would accept Moldova now with open arms). Over all, support for the EU in Moldova has plummeted to 40% this year from 78% in 2007.

The paper quoted an unnamed senior European diplomat as saying that Moldova’s pro-European politicians were “very good at singing the European song” to impress Brussels. But in reality, he told the paper they have mucked up and in doing so, discredited both their own pro-European parties and the EU. "As a result, the diplomat added, many ordinary people now believe that 'Russia cannot be any worse',” the apper reported.



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