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Separatist Republic Drained of Money

RIA Novosti

15:02 08/02/2012 MOSCOW, February 8 (RIA Novosti, Alexey Eremenko) - The separatist Transdnestr republic has been drained of almost all its funds, with a mere $49,000 remaining, its president Yevgeny Shevchuk said.

An opposition lawmaker told RIA Novosti on Wednesday the drain could be a ploy by Shevchuk’s predecessor, but a Transdnestr analyst said the impoverished republic could have simply run out of money.

“$49,000 is all that remains in our foreign currency accounts,” Shevchuk said during a televised interview on Monday.

He said the money had “washed away,” but gave no name, adding only that unspecified officials are under investigation.

Shevchuk gave no estimate for the losses, but republican legislator Dmitry Soin said by telephone the sum could range up to $40 million.

Shevchuk said last week that 90 percent of the republic’s financial assets went missing before his inauguration on December 30, but did not elaborate. The head of Transdnestr’s Central Bank, Olga Ionova, was replaced with Eduard Kosovsky on February 1.

A spokesman for the Central Bank said by telephone on Wednesday the bank has no comment on the allegations.

Transdnestr, which has a population of 550,000, proclaimed independence from the former Soviet republic of Moldova in 1990. It is supported, though not recognized, by Russia, which keeps its peacekeepers in Transdnestr.

Russia also offers financial help to Transdnestr, which runs budget deficits of 70 percent, though a $300-million credit line was frozen after Shevchuk unexpectedly beat a Moscow-backed candidate at the polls. Russia is still funding the republic’s pension and education system.

Lawmaker Soin, who also run at the presidential polls, said the team of former president Igor Smirnov could have been behind the money drain, possibly for “political revenge.”

The populace expected a quick economic upturn after Smirnov’s ouster, and can take to the streets against Shevchuk if change fails to materialize within the coming months, Soin said.

But Gennady Konenko, an analyst with the Moscow-based Institute of CIS Countries, said that the republic’s economic woes are a more likely explanation.

“Transdnestr is in a very dire economic situation,” Konenko said, adding that Shevchuk’s rivals are trying to play it up against him.



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