Four questions about Transnistria, this region of Moldova that can turn into conflict

Could the war in Ukraine extend to Moldova? On Wednesday, April 27, France announced its support for this small country of 2.6 million people in the face of “at risk of destabilization”, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said after a series of bombings in the pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria. Washington also warns of a “Escalation of Tensions” Around this area, landlocked between Romania and Ukraine.

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Moldova is already suffering from the consequences of the war in Ukraine, with an influx of more than 400,000 people who have fled the fighting. But the country now fears that the conflict will win out over it, especially since its relations with Russia have been strained since the arrival of the pro-European head of state in 2020, Maya Sandu. Franceinfo explains why the situation in Transnistria is a cause for concern.

1Where is Transnistria located and what is its history?

Transnistria is a strip of land 450 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide, located between Ukraine and Moldova, where about 470,000 people reside. In 1991, this region declared its independence from Moldova, because its inhabitants, mostly Russian-speaking, demanded to join Russia. Then a short civil war broke out, from March to July 21, 1992, the date of the declaration of a ceasefire between the Russian forces, who came to support the Transnistrian separatists, and the Moldavian army.

Transnistria is located between Ukraine and Moldova.  (Screenshot / We, the Europeans / France 3)

Since then, there have been no further episodes of clashes, and, as in the Donbass, Transnistria is now a self-proclaimed separatist republic. It has its own capital, Tiraspol, its own government, its own army and its currency, the Transnistrian ruble. she “De facto independent, but not recognized by any state, not even Russia, which nevertheless greatly supports it”, Florent Parmentier, Secretary General of Cevipof and Research Associate at the HEC Paris Center for Geopolitics, confirms in Sunday newspaper.

Thirty years ago, Russian troops were already stationed in this area: 1,500 men officially carry out the mission of keeping peace between the two camps. In fact, these numbers serve “Especially to embarrass the government of Moldova”, Because “The Kremlin is upset by the idea that Moldova is moving towards the European Union”a Western diplomat analyzes for Express. Thousands of tons of old Russian weapons are also stored there.

The region remains on life support equipment from Russia, which has strong influence and provides free gas there. The country’s main conglomerate, Sharif, is owned by ex-Soviet security personnel, “He controls the media and owns all the profitable businesses in the breakaway region: the only telecom operator in [réseau mobile professionnel]construction, textiles, hotels, banks, wine and spirits activities, in addition to a large part of the livestock sector”explain the world. The population has never hidden the secret of their desire to integrate into Russia.

2What happens there?

A series of explosions occurred earlier this week in Transnistria. An official building was the target of a rocket launcher attack on Monday in Tiraspol. Two explosions on Tuesday damaged a wireless tower in Ma’aq village. who are they “strong” The Moldovan government said the antennas transmitting Russian radio frequencies were out of service there.

Radio Center antennas in the village of Mayak, Transnistria, lying on the ground after the explosions, April 26, 2022. & nbsp;  (Memo / Transnational Ministry of the Interior / Agence France-Presse)

The situation continued to deteriorate on Wednesday, when a village in Transnistria, about two kilometers from the Ukrainian border, came under fire. “Last night several drones were seen over the village of Kolbasna.”the Transnistrian Ministry of the Interior wrote in a statement, adding that “Shots were fired from Ukraine”, without any injuries. There is a large armory, dating back to the Soviet era, under the control of Russian soldiers deployed in this area.

3Why do these attacks raise fears of an extension of the Ukrainian conflict?

These explosions remain unjustified and the situation is chaotic. Are these actions directed against Russia? Or were the Russians themselves provoked to justify the intervention in Transnistria? This is what Kyiv claims, accusing Moscow of trying to do it “Destabilization” Region. “If Ukraine falls, tomorrow the Russian forces will be at the gates of Chisinau,” The Moldavian capital, the Ukrainian presidential adviser, Michalo Podolyak, worried. Russian soldiers stationed in Transnistria “total alert status”For its part, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense confirmed.

A sign of the anxiety prevailing in Moldova, President Maïa Sandu shows some restraint, denouncing Trying to increase tensions. It announced a series of measures, such as strengthening road and transportation controls, border patrols, and taking additional measures to protect essential infrastructure.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, without going so far as to hold Moscow responsible for the bombings: “We remain concerned about any possible attempt to escalate tensions.”

For its part, Russia says it is following this “carefully” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that the situation ‘The information it comes from is worrisome’. The pro-Russian local authorities have decided to raise the alert level for 15 days “terrorist”Thus, strengthening the powers of the security forces.

4Is Russia trying to control this region?

That’s what Moldova fears, fearing it will be overshadowed by the Russian-led military offensive in Ukraine more than two months ago. Some analysts believe that Transnistria could serve as a bridge to conquer southern Ukraine, like Belarus in the north.

Last week, a Russian general claimed that the Russian-speaking population of Moldova was “victim of oppression”one of the pretexts used by the Kremlin to intervene in Ukraine for “Defense” Russian minority.

Other observers believe that Russia may also try to destabilize Moldova. So far, Chisinau has managed to maintain a certain pacification with Transnistria, even suggesting a possible reunification. But tensions appear to be rising again, as Maïa Sandu has just signed a formal application for Moldova to join the European Union in order to protect itself from any potential advances by the Russian military. Then Transnistria immediately turned to the United Nations to request recognition of its independence, according to reports international mail.

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