Every time the election process sets off in Moldova, the issues of the occupied territories become more acute. This was the case during the 2020 presidential election, and now the issue of self-proclaimed Transnistria (TMR) is gaining momentum due to the early parliamentary election scheduled for July 11.
Pro-Moscow candidates usually use the rhetoric of friendship with Russia in terms of a possible settlement of the conflict, withdrawal of so-called peacekeepers, and removal or disposal of arsenal from Kolbasna (ammunition left in Transnistria inherited from the 14th Army of the USSR). And to some extent, this is true, because only under the condition of Moldova’s authorities being loyal to Russia, Russia begins to partially fulfill its obligations. If pro-European forces come to power, the negotiation process is sabotaged and frozen indefinitely.
Along with Maya Sandu’s victory in the presidential election, a further rebooting of power and its shift to a pro-European direction is possible in Moldova this year, which in turn does not satisfy the Kremlin at all. For instance, according to the latest opinion poll by the International Republican Institute (IRI) on April 21, 2021, 33% of respondents are ready to vote for President Sandu’s party “Action and Solidarity” (Moldovan Partidul „Acțiune și Solidaritate”, PAS). The Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (Moldovan Partidul Socialiştilor din Republica Moldova) of ex-president and Kremlin friend Igor Dodon takes second place with 19% support.
Under such circumstances, none of the parties will get a majority in the parliament. So Dodon decided to form the left bloc together with the communists and now, united, they are going to defend the “sovereignty” of Moldova.
In her turn, Sandu, showing her anti-Moscow position, has repeatedly demanded that Russia withdraw its troops from Transnistria. Currently, two units of Russian troops operate there: the “peacekeeping force” deployed in Transnistria under the agreement of July 21, 1992, and an operational group of troops, including “TMR border guards”, who operate there completely illegally. Sandu advocates the withdrawal of both and the replacement of peacekeepers with a civilian international mission under the OSCE mandate, which again does not satisfy the Kremlin.
The issue of the presence of so-called “border guards” in the Security Zone (225 kilometers long demilitarized buffer zone) was raised again after May 11 due to the tragic incident when “a Moldovan citizen drowned in the Dniester with the direct participation of illegal Tiraspol security forces”. That is, the parties once again emphasized their stances on the TMR.
In Transnistria itself, the number of Moldovan citizens without a “residence permit” is increasing, so they will vote on separate lists, which creates additional risks of election fraud.
At the same time, the pro-Russian PSRM is pushing an aggressive stance on allowing Transnistrians to vote in early elections under any circumstances: PSRM parliamentary faction leader Corneliu Furculita has accused Moldovan right-wing parties of obstructing Transnistrians in the upcoming election.
At the same time, Dodon criticized and called “belligerent” the statement of U.S. Ambassador Dereck Hogan, who during a speech at the state university said that “Chisinau should control the Transnistrian region”.
And Transnistrian political experts threaten that if Maya Sandu’s party wins and a coalition government is formed, Moldova will be ruled by the U.S. embassy, while Chisinau will exert economic pressure on Transnistria, and the latter will become the epicenter of tensions.
Although the pro-Russian forces in support of the Communist Party (PCRM) and the Socialist Party (PSRM) election block have not yet increased their activity, there is other noteworthy news. By its decision of June 5, 2021, the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Moldova allowed the opening of three polling stations in Transnistria (one polling station in Korzhovo (Dubossary district) and two polling stations in Bendery municipality), which caused great dissatisfaction on the part of right-wing political parties. For example, the Dignity and Truth Platform (Platformei DA) addressed the Chisinau Chamber of Appeals and the Supreme Judicial Chamber to appeal against the CEC’s decision. The party argues that these settlements are located in a territory that is not under the control of Moldova’s constitutional authorities.
According to our sources in the Ukrainian special services, it is probable that the CEC’s decision could be backed by an agreement between the so-called Transnistrian President Vadim Krasnoselsky and former Moldovan President Igor Dodon, which was reached during their visits to Moscow in March this year. The reason is that Transnistrians usually vote for pro-Russian candidates, which, is undoubtedly beneficial to Russia.
Later, the CEC of the Republic of Moldova made amendments, according to which these three polling stations (on the territory of Korzhovo and two on the territory of Bendery municipality) will not be opened.
Therefore, we can see Moscow launching well-tuned mechanisms before the Moldovan election: intimidation by foreign “American rule”, deterioration of Russian-Transnistrian relations if pro-European candidates in Chisinau win, winding up of Russia’s “peacekeeping” mission in Transnistria, which will cause confrontation, stopping the process of disposing of obsolete weapons and promoting narratives about the absorption of Moldova by Romania and the loss of statehood, and more.
All these statements are part of the common goal: to maintain Russia’s influence on the internal situation not only in Transnistria but also in Moldova. And thus to prevent the rapprochement of the territories of Moldova not controlled by Russia with the West and to maintain the status of a frozen conflict within the borders of the EU and NATO, in order to exert pressure on them.
Фото: SERGEI GAPON/AFP/EAST NEWS
Author: Dmytro Bednin