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MOSCOW, April 7. /TASS/. A group of Russian troops staying in Moldova to guard depots of the disbanded 14th army will be withdrawn into Russia as soon as the issue of the armament pullout and disposal is resolved, Russian Foreign Ministry Ambassador-at-Large Sergey Gubarev said on Thursday.
"These armaments can be withdrawn from Moldova into Russia only through the territory of Ukraine," said Gubarev who is also Russia’s envoy at the talks on the Transdniestrian settlement.
"But it is difficult to imagine who will assume responsibility for withdrawing several echelons with weapons across Ukraine when such events are taking place in that country," the Russian envoy said.
The military warehouses were set up during the Soviet period on the territory of Moldova as a republic within the USSR and have been under guard since then, the Russian diplomat said.
"Russia did not commit its troops to Moldova," the diplomat said.
According to the diplomat, Moldova and Transdniestria are far from reaching an agreement on parameters of political settlement of the conflict.
"The key to resolving the issue of Transdniestria’s status is not in Moscow, Washington or Brussels, it’s in Chisinau and Tiraspol," Gubarev said. "The status will be decided in accordance with what the residents of both sides of the Dniester River agree on," he added.
There are two main hurdles on the way of reaching an agreement, the diplomat said. The first one is the law on special status of several settlement on the left bank of the Dniester River adopted in Chisinau in 2005. The second one is the referendum held by Tiraspol as a response measure to this law, when the majority of Transdniestria’s residents spoke in favor of independence and gaining international recognition.
"These two anchors should be pulled out of the ground as they stall the negotiations process on both sides and hamper reaching understanding by Chisinau and Tiraspol on what to do in the future," the diplomat said.
Talking about the prospects of the negotiations process in the "5+2" format (Moldova and Transdniestria - sides in the conflict; Russia, Ukraine and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe - mediators; US and EU - observers), Gubarev noted that Chisinau and Tiraspol opened criminal cases against each other’s officials. Both sides keep these lists secret and do not want to exchange them and sort out politically motivated cases.
The Transdniestrian conflict started in March 1992 when the first clashes occurred between Moldovan police and Transdniestrian militia near the city of Dubossary, which were followed by an outbreak of armed hostilities. By summer, it had developed into large-scale fighting in Bendery, where about a thousand people were killed and tens of thousands were wounded and became refugees.
The fratricidal war was stopped after a peace agreement was signed in Moscow in July of the same year and Russian peacekeepers were brought into the conflict area. Since then, they have been guarding peace and calm in the region, together with their Moldovan and Transdniestrian colleagues, thus allowing Chisinau and Tiraspol to conduct negotiations on the settlement of the conflict around the breakaway republic.