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Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic

Transnistria, a strip of land with about 470,000 people between Moldova and Ukraine, has been under the control of separatist authorities since a 1992 war with Moldova. After a series of mysterious attacks destroyed infrastructure in late April 2022 in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, there were fears that the war is widening beyond Ukraine’s borders. Western intelligence chiefs along with Ukrainian and Moldovan officials believe Russia staged the attacks in order to justify mobilising around 1,500 or so Russian troops permanently based in Transnistria, along with several thousand Transnistrian conscripts. It followed recent comments from a Russian commander saying that the Kremlin’s latest strategy was to try to link Russian troops in the east and south of Ukraine with Russian forces in Transnistria. The comments caused alarm in Moldova, which only had six and a half thousand underequipped soldiers, making it vulnerable to a swift Russian invasion. And like Ukraine, Moldova isn’t a member of the EU or NATO.

The breakaway Transnistria region saw a shocking population fall over the past 30 years, decreasing from 731,000 in 1991 to 306,000 in 2021. There are no countries without people. Throughout history, states have appeared and disappeared. Transnistria's population crises speaks about the validity of its existence as a state. Russia has between 1,500 and 2,000 soldiers in Transnistria, ostensibly as peacekeepers, and the status quo remains one of central Europe's longest "frozen conflicts". The region relies on financial assistance from Russia to survive and Russian troops have been stationed there since the Soviet era.

There are no serious value differences between the population of the unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) and the inhabitants of Moldova. Only corrupt officials, smugglers and politicians who make money on gray schemes do not want a peaceful settlement. From an international perspective, Transnistria is one of the poorest regions in Europe and notorious for being a smuggler's paradise on the edge of the European Union.

Transnistria, a region half as big as the Greek island of Crete, is a narrow strip of land along the Dniester River and the border to Ukraine. The self-proclaimed republic separated from Moldova after a military conflict in Moldova. A ceasefire was declared but a frozen conflict has existed since 1992. International diplomatic efforts – recently intensified by Germany – to resolve the conflict have not brought about any changes. Today, about half a million people live in the breakaway republic.

Transnistria is now split more or less into three equal minorities: Ukrainians, Russians, and Moldovans and in some cases have four passports, Ukrainian, Russian, Moldovan, and Romanian. Around half of those who live in Transnistria have Russian citizenship and its government is close to Moscow.

In early 2014 there was some concern about a possible Russian incursion across Ukraine to occupy Transdniester. Ukraine reported up to a thousand saboteurs of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian Defence Ministry had been deployed to unrecognized Transnistria, who, presumably, had been tasked to destabilize Ukraine's south, Odesa region in particular.

They were also said to be developing a scenario of capturing administrative buildings by armed men in civilian clothes to evoke a forcible response of Ukrainian authorities, provoking a border conflict and imposing the state of emergency or martial law. This would break the conduct of early presidential elections in Ukraine, which is one of the main goals of Putin. Military experts also pointed to the vulnerability for defense of southern Ukraine, located between the unrecognized Transnistrian and annexed Crimea.

Russia, however, does not want to accept Transnistria. According to a foreign policy document signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of November 2016, Russia aims to give Transnistria a special status within Moldova. While Transnistria looks to Moscow, the present pro-West government in Moldova is seeking closer ties with the European Union.

Russia still had around 1,400 troops in the territory. Transnistria (aka Transdniestria - a Russian translated version - or Transdnestr, Pridnestrove) is the long and narrow strip of Moldova bounded on the west by the Dnestr River and on the east by Ukraine. The predominantly Russian and Ukrainian population of Transnistria attempted in 1990 to secede from Moldova and has maintained a separate but unrecognized government since then, known as the Dnestr Moldovan Republic (and other variations), or in Russian as Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublika - PMR - using the city of Tiraspol as its capital. The breakaway region has looked to Russia for unofficial support.

Moldova has sought peaceful solutions to its ethnic and security problems, including offering the largely Russian population of the separatist Transdniester region broad autonomy. Bolstered by the presence of Russian troops, Transdniester continues to hold out for independence, thus denying Moldova control over significant industrial assets and its border with Ukraine.

Transdniester -- a narrow stretch of land situated along the Dniester River between Moldova proper and Ukraine -- broke away from Moldova over fears the Soviet republic would seek reunification with neighboring Romania. In 1992, Moldova and Transdniester fought a short war that ended with a Russia-mediated settlement enforced by Russian troops already stationed in the region. No country has recognized the self-proclaimed Transdniester Republic.

In early 1994, the government of the "Dnestr Republic" had armed forces of about 5,000 which included the Dnestr battalion of the Republic Guard and some 1,000 "Cossacks." As of early 1994, the Russian 14th Army (about 9,200 troops) consisted of one army headquarters, one motor rifle division, one tank battalion, one artillery regiment, and one anti-aircraft brigade. Their equipment consisted of 120 main battle tanks, 180 armored combat vehicles, and 130 artillery/multiple rocket launchers/mortars. Peacekeepers in Transnistria consisted of six airborne battalions supplied by Russia, three infantry battalions supplied by Moldova, and three airborne battalions supplied by the "Dnestr Republic."

The Russian arsenal in Transdniester belongs to the former 14th Soviet Army -- later the Russian Army -- which has been deployed in the region for decades. The 14th Army -- which changed its name to the Transdniester Operative Group of Russian Troops -- still has some 2,500 soldiers in the region, which Moscow says are necessary to guard the weapons and ammunition depots.

Under growing international pressure, Russia at a 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul signed the adapted Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, under which it pledged to withdraw all its troops and military equipment -- estimated at 50,000 weapons and more than 40,000 tons of ammunition -- from Transdniester by 2002. Much of the armaments, as well as the ammunition, were produced before World War II. About 2,500 Russian troops remain stationed in Transdniester as of late 2003.

Transdniester has a president, parliament, army and porice forces, but, as yet it is lacking International recognition. The official languages are Russian, Moldavian, and Ukrainian. Constitutional system: Trans-Dniester Moldavian Republic is an independent democratic state. Trans-Dniester Moldavian Republic is situated between the Republic of Moldova and the Republic of Ukraine. Territorially the state encompasses areas on the left bank of the Dniester river, the town of Bendery and some villages on the right bank. The capital of Trans-Dniester Moldavian Republic is Tiraspol (population 194,000 as of 1 September 1999). The distance from Tiraspol to Odessa is 100 km., and the distance from Tiraspol to Kishinev is 70 km. Trans-Dniester Moldavian Republic has economic ties with many countries. The Republic exports its goods to 50 countries and imports from 40 countries. The Republic produces such export-oriented and well-known abroad kinds of goods as rolled steel, foundry equipment, electrical energy, cables, large electrical machinery, low-voltage gear, insulating materials, pumps, cement, furniture, textiles, footwear, ready-made garments, wine, brandy and other goods.

Transdniester separatists' have a long-time involvement in money-laundering and the manufacturing and smuggling of weapons, as well as trafficking in human beings and drugs. Secessionists in Russian-speaking Transdniester maintain control over the enclave's borders with Ukraine, across which most of the smuggling takes place. The region's leader, Igor Smirnov, and his son, Vladimir, are believed to have almost exclusive control over the lucrative criminal activities in the area.

Since the Soviet collapse, as much as half of Transdniester’s working-age population has left - to work in Russia, or in the West. But Transdniestrans seem happy to live as Russia’s lost colony in Central Europe.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin warned in September 2013 that if Moldova made a move towards the EU, it can say goodbye to the Transdniester, the secessionist region guarded by 1,200 Russian peacekeeping troops. In December 2013, Transdniester passed a law mandating Russian-language legislation, saying the separatist region's major goal is integration into the Russia-led Customs Union.

One month after the presidential elections in Moldova, where the pro-Russian socialist leader Igor Dodon won, the internationally unrecognized separatist state of Transnistria voted 11 December 2016 for its own president. Current president, Yevgeny Shevchuk, and parliamentary speaker, Vadim Krasnoselski, have the best chances of winning. A Russian poll had Shevchuk ahead.

This was the second time 48-year-old president Shevchuk is running for president. He began ruling Transnistria in 2011 when he succeeded Igor Smirnov, who had ruled the separatist Moldovan region for two decades. "People put high hopes in Shevchuk, but not all of them have been fulfilled," said Galina Schelar, a political scientist in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau. The crisis in neighboring Ukraine has left its mark. Furthermore, tensions between the president and parliament have grown. "People are waiting for election day because tensions are running high," said Natalia Skurtul, a journalist in Transnistria. "Many are dreaming of the election campaign just being over."

Shevchuk's main opponent, Krasnoselski, enjoyed the support of "Renewal", an opposition party that entered a partner relationship in the summer with the Kremlin party "United Russia." The 46-year-old Krasnoselski was backed by the powerful corporation "Sheriff" where he once worked as head of security. Sheriff dominates the Transnistrian economy, and operates a supermarket chain, gas stations, a mobile phone provider and a television station.

Both Shevchuk and Krasnoselski were in favor of joining Russia. The vast majority of Transnistria inhabitants voted for this in an internationally unrecognized referendum. In the Transnistrian capital, Tiraspol, there have been signs of movement toward Moscow. In September 2016, the president issued a decree to adapt the Transnistrian legal system to the Russian one.

In July 2020, the authorities dispersed a public protest in Rîbni?a in which participants voiced objections to pandemic-related travel restrictions that prevented them from reaching their places of employment. Activist Gennadiy Chorba was arrested on extremism charges for organizing the protest and was placed in pretrial detention. In September 2020, the authorities initiated a criminal case against Nadezhda Bondarenko, the acting chair of the Communist Party and the editor of its newspaper, for allegedly insulting the president. Aleksandr Samoniy, a Tiraspol city councilman for the Communist Party, was charged in June for posting critical and insulting posts against the authorities on Facebook. He subsequently fled the territory.

The legislative elections in November 2020 featured low voter turnout and a lack of basic competition, with candidates in more than two-thirds of the districts running unopposed. The ruling party captured nearly all of the seats, and no genuine opposition parties won representation. Legislation adopted in July 2019 reduced the size of the unicameral Supreme Council from 43 to 33 members, all serving five-year terms. Elections for the body were held in November 2020. A total of 51 candidates applied to run for seats, and only 45 were registered, with four denied registration and two withdrawing their applications. In 23 of the 33 electoral districts, the candidates ran unopposed; by comparison, only two candidates had run unopposed in each of the previous two legislative elections. Voter turnout was just 28 percent of the eligible electorate. The Renewal Party won 29 seats, and the remainder went to candidates who also had links to Sheriff Enterprises. As Transnistria is not internationally recognized, no established election monitoring organization sent a mission to observe the balloting.

The Transnistrian government escalated its crackdown on dissent during 2021, initiating criminal cases against several political and civic activists. The president is elected for up to two consecutive five-year terms. Constitutional amendments approved in 2011 created a relatively weak post of prime minister. The president appoints the prime minister, who must be approved by the parliament.

Parliamentary elections in Moldova took place on 11 July 2021 without the cooperation of the breakaway region of Transdniester. Most people in the region have Moldovan passports and can travel to nearby districts to vote, but only a few thousand are expected to do so, out of an estimated population of between 300,000 and half a million.

The Central Election Commission [CEC] of the unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic on 27 October 2021 registered the current head of the PMR Vadim Krasnoselsky as a candidate for the post. According to local legislation, a candidate who has been a citizen of the PMR for at least ten years and has the right to vote can be elected President of Transnistria. The candidate must be at least 35 years old and by the day of elections have permanently resided in the territory of the republic for at least ten years. The CEC press service quoted CEC Chairwoman Elena Gorodetskaya. She clarified that Krasnoselsky submitted 12,000 Pridnestrovian signatures to the CEC for his nomination, the protocol on the nomination and the protocol on the collection of signatures. “As a result of checking the documents submitted by the candidate for compliance with the requirements of the law and as a result of checking the data contained in the subscription lists, the CEC adopted a unanimous decision to register Vadim Krasnoselsky as a candidate for the post of President of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic,” the press service quoted CEC Chairman Elena Gorodetskaya.

"As a presidential candidate, I think the elections should be democratic, free. This should not be a factor in the split of the Pridnestrovian people, “Krasnoselsky said after registration. According to the electoral legislation, the registration procedure for candidates should be completed by November 20. In addition to Krasnoselsky, the head of the Tiraspol School of Political Studies Anatoly Dirun, a resident of Tiraspol Nikolai Malyshev and a resident of the Grigoriopol district Sergei Pynzar announced their desire to participate in the elections.

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Page last modified: 01-05-2022 16:47:11 ZULU