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Transnistria condemns Moldova’s calls for withdrawal of Russian military

Transnistria’s parliament said the calls by Moldovan legislators were "reflection of Chisinau’s strategy to destabilize the situation, to fuel the conflict and bring it to the "hot phase"

TIRASPOL, July 22. /TASS/. Transnistria’s legislators condemned the declaration, adopted by the Moldovan parliament, calling for Russia to finalize withdrawal of its peacekeepers from the unrecognized republic.

The document was adopted to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the peacekeeping mission which put an end to the bloodshed, which claimed thousands killed, injured and caused flows of refugees.

Transnistria’s parliament said in the statement, adopted on Saturday, the calls by Moldovan legislators were "reflection of Chisinau’s strategy to destabilize the situation, to fuel the conflict and bring it to the "hot phase".

This approach, the Transnistrian legislators continued, "does fit the earlier adopted destructive initiatives." Among those they named the ruling of the Constitutional Court, which named illegal the deployment of the Russian peacekeepers in Transnistria and the recent withdrawal of the Russian diplomats, who had participated in the monitoring mission, managing the peacekeeping operation in the republic.

Transnistria’s leaders "follow the opinion that the unique trilateral peacekeeping operation is a most important stabilizing factor" in relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol, "a basic guarantee of peace and security there."

President and legislators

Moldova’s President Igor Dodon condemned the statement of the country’s parliament, saying the "declaration does not have any legal force." The issue of "peacekeepers and the Russian military may be settled only in case of a political settlement of the Transnistria problem," he said.

"At the present stage, we are not close to a political settlement, for various reasons," the president said, expressing confidence the parties would be able to approach a political settlement only in 2019-2020.

"Why? In 2018 we shall have the elections - the parliament will be different, and it will begin working in that direction," Dodon said. "And now we should face Transnistria’s current problems."

The president continued, saying the declaration, adopted by the pro-European coalition, is "another demarche with the purpose to flatter the West." That was done so specially on the eve of the visit of Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and the envoy on Transnistria Dmitry Rogozin, due late next week (of July 24).

Parliament’s declaration

The Moldovan parliament has urged Russia to withdraw its military force from breakaway Transnistria, who are part of a peacekeeping operation in the region, said a declaration approved by legislators on Friday, July 21.

"The presence of Russian military in eastern parts of the country violates the constitutional provisions on independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and the neutrality of the Republic of Moldova," the document said. It also stressed that the withdrawal of ammunition and armaments remaining in the breakaway republic since the Soviet era must be completed.

Besides, legislators believe it is necessary to convert the Russian peacekeeping mission in the Transnistrian conflict zone into a civilian one under an international mandate.

Russian peacekeepers were deployed to the conflict zone in accordance with the "Agreement on the Pinciples for a Peaceful Settlement of the Armed Conflict in the Transnistrian Region of the Republic of Moldova", signed on July 21, 1992 by the presidents of Russia and Moldova in the presence of Transnistria’s leader.

Besides, the Russian military protect ammunition depots near Kolbasna settlement, left over from the days of the USSR. Their scrapping and removal started in 2001, but was blocked by Transnistria’s residents in 2004 amid deteriorating relations with Chisinau.

The Transnistrian authorities strongly oppose Moldova’s plan to withdraw Russian peacekeepers, whom they see as guarantors of peace in the region. They point out that this year marks the 25th anniversary since the start of the peacekeeping operation in the region, which has proved to be highly successful. No outbreaks of violence have been fixed in the region since it was launched, and there have been no civilian deaths as well. Tiraspol pointed out that in 1992, when Moldova insisted on an international peacekeeping force, that initiative failed and led to bloodshed.

Peace in breakaway republic

The Transnistrian foreign ministry earlier called to resume 5+2 talks over growing tensions in the region. The Russian foreign ministry also expressed concern over the escalation of tension and supported the idea of arranging such talks. However, Wolf-Dietrich Heim (c), Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the Transniestrian settlement process, who has recently visited Moldova and Transnistria, said that such extended talks should be preceded by bilateral agreements between Chisinau and Tiraspol that would be worded into official documents at the 5+2 talks.

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 (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.