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Moldova’s president-elect insists on dismissing defense minister who favors NATO

According to the newly-elected president, the defense minister has repeatedly violated the country’s constitutional neutrality, staging provocations and illegally selling weapons

CHISINAU, November 18. /TASS/. Moldova’s President-elect Igor Dodon said on Friday he will insist on the resignation of Defense Minister Anatol Salaru, who advocates Moldova’s abandoning its neutrality status and joining NATO.

Apart from that, he said he plans to exclude Mihai Ghimpu, the leader of the Liberal Party, from the Supreme Security Council.

"Under the constitution, the president can decree to dismiss a government member. A minister’s resignation is possible upon the initiative of the prime minister and by a presidential decree. But the president is the supreme commander-in-chief of the National Army, so, I will insist on the soonest resignation of such a person as Salaru," Dodon told the national television channel NTV-Moldova.

According to the newly-elected president, the defense minister has repeatedly violated the country’s constitutional neutrality, staging provocations and illegally selling weapons.

Under the constitution, Moldova is a neutral country and cannot join any military blocs. Salaru however has repeatedly called for the country’s joining NATO. He sanctioned military drills with participation of NATO countries on the territory of the republic. Apart from that, he called on NATO to help transform the peacekeeping operation in TRansnistria involving Russian, Moldovan and Transnistrian forces into an international mission of civil monitors. Several days ago, the Moldovan defense minister said he had agreed with his Ukrainian counterpart, Stepan Poltorak, to draft a joint plan of withdrawal of Russian troops and weapons from Transnistria, which would provide for the establishment of a ‘green corridor’ across the Ukrainian territory for them.

Dodon’s Party of Socialists has twice initiated Salaru’s dismissal at the parliament. Along with violations of the constitution, the party accuses the defense minister of large-scale embezzlement. The parliamentary majority formed by pro-European parties refused to uphold the Socialists’ move out of fear of a possible split in the ruling coalition.

Transnistria against withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers

Apart from Salaru, other Chisinau officials, including incumbent President Nicolae Timofti, have been speaking in favor of withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Transnistria. However the authorities of the unrecognized republic are categorically against it. "The Russian group of forces which is playing a key role in the peacekeeping operation on the Dniester banks is a unique example of a peacekeeping mission, which fact is recognized by many experts worldwide. This operation is a guarantee of peace and stability in Transnistria," he told TASS.

According to the Transnistrian leader, lasting truce is only possible when there is a system of guarantees which cannot be changed unilaterally by either of the sides. Moldova, in his words, is seeking to expand military cooperation with NATO to be able to exert more pressure on Transnistria.

Majority of Moldovan’s against NATO

Since 1994, Moldova has been cooperating with NATO under an individual partnership plan. But according to numerous public opinion polls, the bulk of Moldovan citizens are categorically against the country’s joining the alliance. Thus, as seen from a poll conducted by the U.S.’ International Republican Institute (IRI), only 16% of Moldovan’s want their country to join NATO whereas 40% are categorically against.

Transnistrian conflict

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 peaceful settlement known as the 5+2 format talks (Moldova, Transnistria as parties to the conflict, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, Russia and Ukraine as mediators, and the European Union and the United States as observers) started after that.

For the moment, a joint peacekeeping force of the 402 Russian peacekeepers, 492 Transnistrian and 355 Moldovan servicemen, as well as a group of ten military observers 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 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 2004 but in 2004 the Transnistrian authorities cut it short following deterioration of relations with Moldova.