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MOSCOW, August 11. /TASS/. The risk of a large-scale armed conflict in the self-proclaimed republic of Transdniestria, sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine, is not very high at this point, although some surprises are possible, Russian experts agree with the Council of Europe’s Secretary-General, Thorbjorn Jagland. The authorities in Kiev are interested in fanning tensions over Transdniestria more than anyone else, they say. In principle, analysts do not rule out the breakaway territory’s reintegration with Moldova on acceptable terms.
At this point any large-scale armed conflict in Transdniestria is unlikely, but even a casual clash may cause the situation to go out of control, the Council of Europe’s Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland said in an article published by the New York Times on Monday.
Transdniestria’s economic blockade by Moldova and Ukraine has added fuel to the economic crisis in the self-proclaimed republic of late. In July, plans were unveiled for creating joint Moldovan-Ukrainian checkpoints on the border between Transdniestria and Ukraine. Transdniestria believes that the situation is getting catastrophic for the economy and jeopardizes the life and security of the population on the left bank of the Dniester.
Moldova’s newly-appointed prime minister, Valeriu Strelet, said just recently that Chisinau was going to draw up a timetable for Transdniestria’s re-integration with Moldova and to present it to the Transdniestrian authorities.
"I am going to meet with Tiraspol’s leader Yevgeny Shevchuk and to persuade him Transdniestria may acquire a special status," Strelets said.
"The situation is no easy, indeed," the deputy director of the CIS Studies Institute, Vladimir Zharikhin, has told TASS. "The Ukrainian authorities tried to take a harder line only to draw no active support from the Moldovan authorities, contrary to original expectations. Moldova is well aware that full-scale combat operations may be the eventual outcome, which is highly undesirable. The more so, since the current sentiment in Moldova is strongly pro-Russian, in defiance of hostile propaganda and the votes cast for euro-integration supporters in elections."
Zharikhin agrees with Jagland in that the risk of Transdniestria being turned into another trouble spot is not high, but provocations capable of triggering an uncontrolled march of events should not be ruled out.
"Kiev is interested in shaking the situation loose more than anyone else," the expert said. "That would distract attention from its policies in Donbass. But certainly a US hand has been at work here. Washington is interested in destabilizing the situation in Europe in principle," he said.
Nevertheless, Zharikhin believes, in principle there do exist good chances of achieving an agreement between Chisinau and Tiraspol on Transdniestria’s re-integration. "It should be remembered that at a certain point both parties agreed to a confederative structure of a common state. It was external pressure that upset the settlement."
Besides, there are no factors that usually impair reintegration. "There are no refugees or disputed properties, contrary to what can be seen in Cyprus or Abkhazia, the ethnic composition is very similar and there are no religious problems."
Alexander Gushchin, a political scientist at the Russian Council for International Affairs, agrees with the way Jagland sees the current state of affairs. He, too, emphasizes Kiev role in fanning tensions. "In case of an aggravation in the southeast of Ukraine they can use that factor for destabilization," he told TASS. "A provocation may take place, but only if the general situation in the south east gets worse. I don’t expect an early full-scale war."
In his opinion, the door to Transdniestria’s reintegration with Moldova remains open in principle, although for Moldova’s unionists (advocates of unification with Romania) that would be the least welcome option. "Theoretically, at some future date the possibility of wide autonomy close to confederation or wide federation may be discussed. For the time being it is hard to expect that in the context of strained relations between Russia and Europe they would be able to devise a common stance on the issue." But the situation "is drifting in this direction."
In the distant future, if there is an easing of tensions, Gushchin says, "the general vector in support of a wider federation may gain greater support, including that from Moscow."
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