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Analysts say demarches towards Transdniestria endanger regional security

June 02, 2015, 19:21 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
Russian peacekeepers in Transdniestria

Russian peacekeepers in Transdniestria

©  ITAR-TASS/Vadim Denisov

MOSCOW, June 2. /TASS/. Ukraine’s decision to sever the treaty on military cooperation with Russia, the appointment of Georgia’s ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili as governor of Ukraine’s Odessa Region and Moldova’s stricter movement rules for Russian peacekeepers tighten the blockade of the whole region and endanger its security, polled analysts have told TASS.

The Transdniestrian Moldovan Republic is a tiny land-locked self-proclaimed state in Southeastern Europe. It borders on Moldova and Ukraine’s Odessa Region. Its population of about half a million people consists of approximately equal shares of ethnic Moldovans, Russians and Ukrainians. An overwhelming majority professes Orthodox Christianity.

Transdniestria proclaimed independence from Moldova in 1990 against the background of what in those days was known as "parade of sovereignties" and the breakup of the USSR. After the armed conflict of 1992 it broke away from Moldova. Under the 1992 agreement a small peace-keeping contingent of three battalions - Russian, Dniestrian and Moldovan - has been present in the territory of the self-proclaimed republic. The other part of the Russian contingent - an operative group of Russian troops numbering 1,000 officers and men - has long been an apple of discord among Russia, Ukraine and Moldova.

The director of the Military and Political Studies Centre at the Moscow state institute of international relations, Alexey Podberyozkin, believes that the latest measures Ukraine and Moldova have taken against Transdniestria are tantamount to blackmailing Russia.

"That’s public relations warfare. In reality, the essential cargoes to the Russian army group in Transdniestria can easily be airlifted. That group does not need heavy armaments or ammunition - military hardware in stock there is more than enough. And the personnel will not have to be replaced too often: most servicemen of the operative group of Russian troops reside in Transdniestria," Podberyozkin explained.

In his opinion the economic and humanitarian situation in the self-proclaimed republic may prove the main problem.

"I have been to Transdniestria more than once to see for myself that this tiny state has its own economy and manufacturing industries. But it is a big question for how long it will manage to carry on in the context of a blockade, because Russia will be unable to airlift enough support for its half a million population. In the context of blackmail Russia will have to employ economic leverage to influence Ukraine and Moldova to refrain from excessive actions towards Transdniestria," Podberyozkin said.

"As for Saakashvili’s appointment as Odessa region governor, I will say this: if he dares provoke an armed conflict on the border with Trans-Dniestria, that war will be over for him much faster than his intrusion into South Ossetia in 2008. Transdniestria’s army and the people of Odessa will fight back really hard to make him swallow a dozen neckties," Podberyozkin said.

The deputy director of the CIS Studies Institute, Vladimir Zharikhin, believes that in the current geo-political situation Ukraine and Moldova have no reason for fanning tensions over Transdniestria.

"Half of the population of the self-proclaimed republic have Russian passports, and less than half of them are holders of Ukrainian passports. In Ukraine itself the blockade of Transdniestria will be given the cold shoulder. Moldova hopes that one day it will unite with Romania, so Transdniestria is only an obstacle in the way. Kiev and Chisinau stage their demarches only under pressure from the United States, because Washington is after dragging Russia into direct combat operations," Zharikhin believes.

And the chief of the CIS Studies Institute’s branch in Trans-Dniestria’s capital Tiraspol, Irina Levitskaya, points to the alarm the people of Transdniestria feel about the situation on the republic’s border with Ukraine.

"Ukraine is tightening control of the 403-kilometer-long border with Transdniestria. Ukrainian troops are digging an anti-tank ditch. Saakashvili’s appointment as the Odessa Region’s governor has caused certain fears, too, because in 2008 he was very close to starting a war with Russia," Levitskaya told TASS.

"The just-started blockade has put Transdniestria on the brink of an economic crisis. This attempt at economic strangulation is aimed at forcing us back into Moldova. But Transdniestria has been an independent state for the past 25 years, with its own bodies of power, currency and banking system. It is oriented towards Eurasian integration and sees Russia as a guarantor of its security," Levitskaya said.

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