June 1, 2023

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Why the war in Ukraine is of concern to this part of Moldova

In the shadow of Ukraine, Moldova is worried. This small neutral country in Eastern Europe with a population of 2.6 million is already experiencing the effects of the ongoing war in its neighboring country, which has led to more than 400,000 people taking refuge on its soil. But Chisinau (the capital) in particular fears that the conflict will reach its borders. At the center of his concerns: the pro-Russian separatist area of ​​Transnistria.

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On Wednesday, April 27, gunfire was heard near a Russian ammunition depot in the area. The previous day, Moldovan President Mia Sandu had convened his National Security Council after a series of bombings in the region. “This is an attempt to increase tension”She condemned, ” LeS confirmed by Moldovan officials[aient] To prevent the Republic from being dragged into a conflict.

What is Transnistria?

It is an area east of Moldova, the size of Belgium, a small state located between Romania and Ukraine. Transnistria is 450 kilometers long and covers an area of ​​4,100 square kilometers between the Dniester River in the west and the Ukrainian border in the east.

Pro-Russian, Transnistria declared itself an independent state in 1992. It has a name (Moldova’s Transnistrian Republic, its local abbreviation “PMR”), a capital (Trospole), a president (Vadim Krasnoshelsky), a constitution, parliament, a central bank, a currency (transnistrian ruble), a clean education system, And a flag, decorated with a scythe and a hammer, Soviet symbols. However, it is not recognized by the UN, nor is it recognized by any state.

Of its approximately 500,000 population, one-third are of Romanian descent, and two-thirds are Russians and Ukrainians. They speak Russian, where the Moldavians on the other side of the Dniester speak Roman.

Why declare independence from Moldova?

We need to go back to before 1992 to understand the geopolitical logic that works in this region. The borders of present-day Moldova date back to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, but in previous centuries, The territory was torn between several powers. Memories still bear traces of this history.

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The Roman-speaking population of Moldavia dates back to the mid-XIV century.e Century. After being a slave to the Ottoman Empire in 16e And XVIIe For centuries, it was divided in 1812 when the Russian Empire conquered the eastern part of what is now called Bessarabia. The territory of this region is close to the borders of present-day Moldova, where there is no Transnistria. The latter was conquered by the Russian Empire from the end of the 18th century.e Century.

After World War I, Bessarabia joined the Romanian Empire, and the region associated with Transnistria became the Soviet Union. The latter, in 1924, formed the Maldivian Socialist Soviet Autonomous Republic (RASSM), which includes the Transnistrian Territory and extends eastward into part of present-day Ukraine.

It’s a “Traspole, the new capital, is a model company aimed at attracting the population of Romanian Moldavia and workers throughout the Soviet Union around the modernization and industrialization program.”, Catherine Durantin writesEmeritus, a historian specializing in Romania, is a professor at the National Institute of Oriental Languages ​​and Civilizations (ENALCO). Circumstances in which a fracture develops between an interval “Romanian Moldavian under the control of Bucharest” And this “Sovietized RASSM”.

Between 1940 and 1944, Bessarabia was under Soviet occupation, then reunited with Hitler’s ally Romania, annexed by the RASSM and became the Soviet Socialist Republic until August 1991. On this date, Moldavia was brought together within the same territory. Formerly Pesarabia and Transnistria, gained independence.

What happened in 1992?

In March 1992 a civil war broke out. The adoption of Romanian as the official language and the loss of influence of Russian speakers within government agencies provoked Transnistria’s anger.

Before the break-up of the Soviet Union, Moldova was torn between the east and west of the Dniester. In 1990, Transnistria decided to secede from the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldavia, fearing a rapprochement with Romania and demanding that it become a Russian enclave. In Moscow, the authority denied this opportunity.

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For months, the Moldovan army clashed with separatist forces backed by Russian soldiers from the 14th.e Army. Thousands died in the conflict and the ceasefire signed in July 1992 cut off part of Moldova’s territory and lost its main industrial base.

1989, legacy of Soviet investment in Transnistria, a region with 11% of Moldova’s population and only 17% of total population Provides one-third of GDP The country and its companies make up more than 40% of the economy. At the time of partition, Transnistria was twice as rich as the rest of Moldova.

What was the situation after the ceasefire?

Le Conflicts have been paralyzed for thirty years. A negotiation format was put in place after the civil war, but it did not lead to a political settlement between the two companies. In 2006, during a referendum that was not recognized, Transnistria asked for its independence and its annexation to Russia, which was not recognized as an independent country.

However, the region’s relations with Moscow are strong. Russia partially finances this “Phantom State” and provides free gas, for example (Moldovan debt is charged). This, among other things, allows companies in separatist territory to produce at lower prices.

On the military side, at least 1,500 Russian troops have been stationed in Transnistria since 1992, with Russia having a military base in Traspole as part of what Moscow calls a “peacekeeping mission.” The withdrawal of these troops is part of Chisinau’s continued demands. In addition, large stocks of Soviet weapons and ammunition are still in the territory.

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But Transnistria has not been cut off from Moldova and the European Union (EU). The house for major energy production infrastructure, for example, sells to Moldova Most of the electricity needed for that. More than 70% of its exports Imposed for the EU in 2019, it has actually created economic dependence, while sales to Russia have been steadily declining for thirty years. Experts evaluate However, 40 to 60% of Transdnestrian GDP depends on smuggling (especially arms smuggling and exports of goods from Ukraine with lower taxes to Moldova).

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What was Moldova’s position in the Ukraine war?

The country has been neutral since 1994, indicating that no militant can help or join a military alliance. Like NATO – Unlike Ukraine, he never heard of it. Chisinau showed its support for Ukraine, welcomed many refugees, but did not accept the EU’s sanctions against Russia, more than it did in 2014 after annexing Crimea.

However, Moldova has been leaning west for many years. She signed Joint Agreement with the European Union In 2013, they strengthened their business relationship and carried the seeds for their political reconciliation. On March 3, a week after the start of the war in Ukraine, Moldova, ruled by a pro-European leader since 2020, made an official request to join the European Union.

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So far, the fighting has not crossed the border between Ukraine and Transnistria. Reports last week from a Russian general indicated that Moldova could be a Kremlin target.

General Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of the forces in the central Russian military district, said Moscow wanted to occupy the whole of southern Ukraine in order to gain direct access to the separatist area. His speech portrays Russian-speaking people as victims in Moldova“Repression” It is reminiscent of one of Moscow’s excuses to intervene in Ukraine “To protect” Russian minorities.