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Explosions in Transdniestria: why is Moldova afraid of being Moscow’s next target?  – Ukraine-Russia War

  • 1 What is Transdniestria?

  • The breakaway region of Transdniestria (or Transnistria) is a narrow strip of land between southern Ukraine and Moldova.

    A small territory of 4,100 km2 with an official population of 465,000, Transdniestria seceded from Moldova after a brief civil war in the wake of the collapse of the USSR.

    This region unilaterally declared its independence in 1990, for fear of a “Romanization” of Moldova, which was then seeking to leave the Soviet orbit. An armed conflict, which ended in July 1992, resulted in several hundred deaths and the intervention of the Russian army.

    Transdniestria has its own currency and its own security forces. It is not recognized as a state by the international community, including by Moscow, which nevertheless considers it a bridgehead not far from the borders of the European Union.

  • 2 What links with Russia?

  • The links between Transdniestria and Russia are numerous. The region is predominantly Russian-speaking and unlike Moldova, retained the Cyrillic alphabet after the fall of the USSR. The current “president” of the territory, Vadim Krasnosselski, is pro-Russian.

    In a referendum in September 2006, the result of which is not recognized internationally, this region had voted 97.1% for its attachment to Russia.

    Moscow maintains some 1,500 soldiers there. The pro-European Moldovan president, Maia Sandu, proposes replacing this force with observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), but Russia is opposed to this.

    Transdniestria is heavily dependent economically on Russia, which provides it with free gas.

    The area is an open-air museum of Soviet times. A statue of Lenin sits in the center of its main city, Tiraspol, and a bust of the father of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 stands guard in front of the town hall building which has kept its original name: the House of Soviets.

    The flag of Transdniestria remains stamped with the best-known communist symbols: the hammer and sickle, as well as a red star.

  • 3 Why is the situation tense?

  • After Ukraine, Moldova fears to be Moscow’s next target. Russian General Rustam Minnekayev claimed last week that Moscow wanted to seize southern Ukraine in order to have direct access to the separatist enclave.

    This senior official also considered that the Russian-speaking population of Moldova was the victim of “oppression”, one of the pretexts invoked by Moscow to intervene in Ukraine.

    Some analysts believe that Transdniestria could serve as an additional bridgehead for the invasion of southern Ukraine, like Belarus for the north.

    Tiraspol is only a hundred kilometers from Odessa, the major port city in southern Ukraine coveted by Moscow.

    At the beginning of the week, the tension has gone up a notch. Explosions occurred Monday and Tuesday in the area. They damaged a radio tower, knocking out two “powerful” antennas relaying Russian radio frequencies.

    A radio tower was damaged. (AFP)

    The headquarters of the Ministry of Public Security in Tiraspol was also the target of a grenade launcher attack, according to the separatist authorities.

    The violence caused no casualties, but the authorities in the region decided to raise the “terrorist” alert level for 15 days, thus strengthening the powers of the security forces.

  • 4 Who cares?

  • Moldova. The Moldovan government convened its Security Council on Tuesday, after which it called for “calm” and announced measures to strengthen security, denouncing the explosions in Transdniestria as an “attempt to increase tensions”.

    “The Moldovan authorities will take care to prevent the republic from being drawn into a conflict,” said Moldovan President Maïa Sandu.

    Explosions in Transdniestria: why is Moldova afraid of being Moscow’s next target?  – Ukraine-Russia War
    The President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, this Tuesday, April 26, 2022. (DUMITRU DORU/EPA-EFE)

    Ukraine. Ukrainian military intelligence assured on Telegram that Moscow was preparing a “missile strike against Transdniestria with civilian casualties” to then blame kyiv for it.

    The Russian soldiers present in Transdniestria have been placed on “full alert”, said the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

    France. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian “expressed to his Moldavian counterpart his concern and his vigilance with regard to the incidents that have occurred over the past two days in Transnistria. In this context, he reiterated France’s full support for the stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova in the face of the risks of destabilization to which it may be subject, ”according to a press release.

    United States. Without going so far as to attribute responsibility for the explosions to Moscow, as kyiv does, US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters: “We remain concerned about any potential attempt lead to an escalation of tensions. »

    Russia. Russia is “watching closely” the situation in Transdniestria, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday, adding that “the information coming from there is causing concern”.

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