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Moldova calls for consolidated position on withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria

"Regrettably, we are still playing our traditional one-step-forward-two-steps-backwards game", Moldovan Defense Minister Eugen Struza said

CHISINAU, May 4. /TASS/. Moldova’s leadership so far has no consolidated position on the issue of the withdrawal of Russian troops from the non-recognized republic of Transnistria, Moldovan Defense Minister Eugen Struza said on Saturday.

"Regrettably, we are still playing our traditional one-step-forward-two-steps-backwards game. One day we say we want the troops to be withdrawn but the next day when the government changes we say we are friends and we need these troops. From this point of view, we must have a very clear state project so that that it doesn’t change depending on who comes to power but instead keep this continuity in place, keep pressure on Russian in place to have these troops leave Moldova once and for all," the IPN news agency quoted his as saying.

He said a state policy is needed for that. "A comprehensive approach is needed," he noted, citing as an example of such policy a United Nations resolution on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Moldova that was passed in June 2018 on the initiative of the Moldovan government.

Transnistria, a largely Russian-speaking region, broke away from Moldova following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Its relations with Moldova’s central government in Chisinau have been highly mixed and extremely tense at times ever since then. In 1992 and 1993, tensions erupted into a bloody armed conflict that claimed the lives of hundreds of people on both sides.

The fratricidal war was stopped after a peace agreement was signed in Moscow in 1992 and Russian peacekeepers were brought into the conflict area. Negotiations on the conflict’s peace settlement known as the 5+2 format talks (involving Moldova and Transnistria as parties to the conflict, Russia, Ukraine and the European security watchdog OSCE as mediators and the United States and the European Union as observers) started after that.

For the moment, a joint peacekeeping force of Russian, Transnistrian and Moldovan servicemen, and a team of military obeservers from Ukraine are maintaining peace and stability in the buffer security zone of the Transnistrian conflict. Notably, no outbreaks of violence have been reported from that area after the deployment of Russian peacekeepers, which makes it possible for Chisinau and Tiraspol to continue peace settlement talks.

The Russian military are also tasked to ensure security of munitions depots near the village of Cobasna. According to various estimates, the depots are holding more than 20,000 tons of weapons and munitions that were put for storage there after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from European countries. Weapons and munitions withdrawal and disposal campaign started in 2001 but in 2004 the Transnistrian authorities cut it short following deterioration of relations with Moldova.

Moldova’s government suggests the existing peacekeeping format be replaced by a mission of civil observers. However Moldovan President Igor Dodon says the peacekeepers should be withdrawn only after the Transnistrian problem is finally settled.