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Russia has no plans to annex Transdniestria, though opposes economic embargo

May 12, 2014, 17:18 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and President’s Special Representative on Transdniestria Dmitry Rogozin

Russian Deputy Prime Minister and President’s Special Representative on Transdniestria Dmitry Rogozin

© ITAR-TASS/Vadim Denisov

MOSCOW, May 12. /ITAR-TASS/. Contrary to fears circulating in the West, Moscow will not recognize independence of the Transdniestrian republic, a separatist region squeezed between turbulent Ukraine and Moldova, the latter now also treading the path of association with the European Union (EU). Russia believes the people of Transdniestria are not in danger but is determined to prevent an economic embargo against the unrecognized republic.

Russia had not renounced its stance in the negotiating and peacekeeping process around Transdniestria and was not going to do so as it recognizes Moldova’s territorial integrity, said Russian Deputy Prime Minister and President’s Special Representative on Transdniestria Dmitry Rogozin.

“We are well aware of the fact that Transdniestria could find itself under strain and are making efforts so that the unrecognized republic and its citizens do not end up in full isolation of the economic embargo once Moldova has signed the association agreement with the EU,” he said in an interview with Kommersant daily. “This is what we seek to emphasize.”

“It is to be hoped we’ll manage with diplomatic means,” Rogozin added.

As for Crimea, the situation on the peninsula was of a different kind, he explained: “There was an absolutely perceivable threat to the life and safety of the locals”. Meanwhile, the situation in Transdniestria is “stable”, albeit “highly complicated economically” since Chisinau defied any logic and the voters’ aspirations and decided to sign the EU association agreement. “It is not the physical protection of compatriots and Russian citizens in Transdniestria that is the chief challenge for Russia but ensuring their civil, economic and political rights,” says the official.

The region, whose population is 60% comprised of Russians and Ukrainians, had sought secession from Moldova before the break-up of the Soviet Union, for fear of Moldova’s accession to Romania on a nationalist wave. On September 2, 1990, five districts located on the left bank of the Dniester river declared themselves a Pridnestrovian Soviet Republic in the Soviet Union, followed by the independent Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) still unrecognized de jure.

In 1992, Chisinau lost control over the Left Bank after a failed attempt to solve the problem by force in a military conflict. Since then, Transdniestria is independent from the government in Chisinau de facto, the peace here maintained by peacekeeping forces. The region’s capital, Tiraspol, is seeking international recognition, whereas Moldova proposes autonomy within the united country.

Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) acted as intermediaries in numerous negotiations in the confrontation but failed to clinch a consensus on the republic’s status. In 2006, 97% of Transdniestria’s population said “yes” in the referendum about joining Russia yet Moldova, the OSCE and the European Union declared the vote illegitimate and undemocratic.

Meanwhile, the majority of Moldova’s population, especially in the country’s north and south, approve of the state’s rapprochement with Russia. According to the Russian opinion poll centre FOM, these people account for 61% of the populace. If a referendum was held today, 57% would support joining the Customs Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan), while 36% would vote for the EU association agreement.

On April 16, Transdniestria’s Supreme Council unanimously adopted an address to Vladimir Putin requesting him and the Russian parliament to recognize the PMR. The next day, while answering the people’s question on air, Putin said: “Undoubtedly, we need a dialogue with both Moldova and Ukraine, we need to intensify 5+2 negotiations; we have such a formula. There is a need to lift the economic embargo which is now negatively affecting the people of Transdniestria. The embargo was pursued by both Moldova and Ukraine, he added.

Events in Ukraine have escalated the Transdniestrian issue, head of the Moldova and Transdniestria department at the Institute of CIS States Sergei Lavrenov told ITAR-TASS. Furthermore, Chisinau and Kiev are pursuing a coordinated policy, namely restrictive economic measures, against Transdniestria. The expert believes that the PMR’s address to Russia is another signal that the international community should closely consider the tough situation in the unrecognized republic.

Chisinau’s course for integration in the EU was also complicating the economic situation in the separatist region, Lavrenov added. All this posed a threat for the supplies of life's necessities to the republic, where more than 200,000 hold Russian passports. Russia would certainly continue economic measures to prevent such a turn of events, but the PMR was geographically separated from Russia by Ukraine, which was another complicating factor, said the expert. However, he believes, long-term forecasting is hardly possible now amid extreme instability in the region.

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