Transnistrian politicians appeal to Russia for protection

Transnistrian politicians appeal to Russia for protection
Transnistrian President Vadim Krasnoselsky addressed a congress at which officials appealed for support from Russia and the international community. /
By bne IntelliNews February 28, 2024

Politicians in the Moldovan separatist republic of Transnistria issued an appeal to Russia for assistance in response to what they claim is mounting pressure from the Moldovan government in Chisinau. 

The appeal — which also calls on the international community for support — falls short of the call for union with Russia that officials from the small breakaway republic had originally been rumoured to have planned. Speculation Tiraspol had been planning to ask to become part of the Russian Federation had already been dismissed by Moldovan officials and Ukrainian intelligence. 

At a congress in Tiraspol on February 28, hundreds of politicians from the separatist region convened and ratified a resolution imploring Moscow to safeguard their interests. The resolution, which refrains from explicitly advocating for integration into Russia, sets out the region's concerns over alleged coercion from Chisinau.

"[We resolved to] appeal to the Federation Council and the State Duma of the Russian Federation, requesting measures to protect Transnistria amidst increased pressure from Moldova," the resolution said.

It also calls on the international community including the UN and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to bring pressure to bear on Chisinau. 

The plea mentions the presence of Russian citizens within Transnistria, numbering over 220,000.

Fears that Transnistria — and thus the rest of Moldova — could become embroiled in the war in neighbouring Ukraine proved to be unfounded as the authorities in both Chisinau  and Tiraspol have largely sought to minimise tensions over the last two years. 

However, relations have deteriorated since the entry into force of Moldova’s new Customs Code on January 1, under which economic agents in Transnistria have to pay customs duties to the state budget. Previously, companies based in Transnistria but registered in Chisinau were allowed to pay customs duties to the Transnistrian budget.

“Today’s congress is taking place in an era of powerful geopolitical storm,” the self-declared republic’s President Vadim Krasnoselsky said in his address to the congress as reported by state news agency Novosti PMR. 

“Moldova traditionally uses global difficulties to infringe on Transnistria,” he added, going on to talk of the "economic strangulation” of the region.

Transnistria, which lies between the eastern bank of the Dneister river and Moldova's border with Ukraine, has persisted as a de facto independent entity since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It has retained Soviet symbols and relies heavily on Moscow for financial support, although to an extent its economy has reorientated westward as Moldova has increasingly integrated with the European Union. 

Back in 2006, Transnistrian held a referendum advocating for accession to the Russian Federation, which garnered overwhelming support from regional voters. Despite this, Moscow has refrained from formal annexation, opting instead to maintain a military presence under the guise of peacekeepers. 

Responding to the appeal on February 28, the Russian foreign ministry told RIA Novosti the protection of Transnistrian residents, including Russian citizens, is a priority. Moscow pledged to review the resolution. 

Meanwhile, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova strongly criticised Moldova and its President Maia Sandu at a briefing on February 28, a ministry statement said. 

Zakharova accused the Moldovan leader of being “stuck in destructive Russophobic policies and double standards”. “A real hysteria began in Chisinau,” she said.