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Exchange of Russian peacekeepers for OSCE mission in Transnistria not discussed — diplomat

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko pointed out that the presence of peacekeepers has helped ensure peace in that region for almost 30 years

MOSCOW, September 22. /TASS/. The replacement Russian peacekeepers in Transnistria with a mission of civilian observers under the OSCE auspices is not being negotiated, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said in an interview with TASS.

"The issue is not being discussed, and we think that it is premature to consider it since the peacekeepers carry out a crucial mission," he said.

Rudenko pointed out that the presence of peacekeepers has helped ensure peace in that region for almost 30 years.

"Not a single armed incident has been recorded. That is why we think their presence in the region to be legitimate, as it relies on a solid legal basis and our position remains the same, which is, when a political settlement acceptable to Tiraspol and Chisinau is reached, the issue of the Russian peacekeeping operation will probably arise. At the time being, as we think, we have not reached this stage yet," the deputy minister said.

Russian peacekeepers were brought into the conflict zone on July 29, 1992 under the Agreement on the Principles for a Peaceful Settlement of the Armed Conflict in the Dniester Region of the Republic of Moldova. The agreement was signed on July 21, 1992 by the Russian and Moldovan presidents in the presence of the Transnistrian leader. Currently, Russian peacekeepers, alongside peacekeepers from Moldova and Transnistria and a group of military observers from Ukraine, are ensuring peace in the disengagement area along the Dniester.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu said earlier she would insist on the withdrawal of the Operational Group of Russian Forces from Transnistria and the replacement of the Transnistrian peacekeeping force, which includes Russia, with a civilian monitoring mission. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that it was premature to pull out about 1,000 troops who are engaged in the peacekeeping operation and guarding depots in Cobasna. Over 20,000 tonnes of weapons and munitions have been stored at the Cobasna munitions depots since the withdrawal of Soviet troops from European soil.