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Operative Group of Russian Troops in Transnistria had skiing competitions. At above 0°C temperatures, with no snow?

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Source: structure.mil.ru

The Operative Group of Russian Troops illegally stationing in the Transnistrian region of Moldova reportedly had skiing competitions for the Russian soldiers and their families.

A press release of the Russian Ministry of Defense dating to 2 January 2018 reports that over 50 families of the Russian military participated and around 1000 people attended the competition. The event included races, as well as sports quizzes.

The main stage of the competition included a ski race for 2000 meters, divided into 3 parts. The men had to ski for 1200 meters, the women for 600 meters, while the children only for 200 meters. Three families won the competitions, but all of them received prizes and souvenirs with the symbols of the Russian Defense Ministry.

It’s still hard to imagine skiing in Transnistria at the current moment: this year, the winter in the region has been mild, with almost no snow, and temperatures over 3°C almost all the time. Moldova.org can confirm this from Chișinău, which is 60km from Tiraspol, that there is snow and that everyone is rather diving in the spring mud.

According to the weather data, it hasn’t snowed in Tiraspol since 22 December 2017. Moreover, the snow must have melt until now because of the unusually high temperatures for this period of the year:

28 December 2017- 3 January 2018

23 December 2017-28 December 2017

20 December 2017- 26 December 2017, the only period with light snow and negative temperature

So how did the Russian soldiers ski? In the mud?

Note: Besides the 402 so-called peacekeepers, Russia holds the Operative Group of the Russian Forces in the Transnistrian region of Moldova containing approximately 1200 regular soldiers, mainly recruited among locals. The Group is the new shape of the former 14th Guards Army of the Soviet Union that is illegally stationed in Transnistria after the collapse of SU. The Group and the Peacekeeping Mission are strongly interconnected through the rotation of troops between them and both contain local Transnistrian men with Russian passports, despite their neutrality claims.

The Republic of Moldova addressed the United Nations with the request to include the issue of the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping forces from Transnistria to the agenda of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. In a letter from the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Moldova to the UN, Victor Moraru stated that the presence of Russian troops “constitutes a danger to the maintenance of international peace and security.” The subject was due to be discussed in the plenary session of the UN General Assembly on 23 October but then was delayed by the Moldovan Representative to the UN.

Currently studying International Relations at the University of Pécs, Hungary. Study focus: Transnistrian conflict settlement, Moldovan statehood, Moldovan democracy.

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Tiraspol wants its airport to be reopened

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The separatist administration of the so-called “Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic” intends to negotiate for the opening of the Tiraspol airport for civil aviation. The information was published by the Russian “Izvestya” quoting the separatist “foreign minister”, Vitaly Ignatiev.

According to Ignatiev, the reopening of the Tiraspol airport fits in the negotiations with Chișinău as a topic of social-economic relations. The reopening will allegedly solve the economic problems of the region, stabilize the trade and make the region more “open to the external world”.

First, it would need the approval of the authorities from Chișinău to allow Moldova’s airspace use, and later Ukraine’s approval. The separatist administration relies on the hope that the International Civil Aviation Organization would approve the use of Tiraspol airport, based on its alleged good technical state.

Answering to Izvestya’s inquiry, the spokesman of the governing Democratic Party of Moldova, Vitalie Gamurari, declared that “Chișinău never tried to lock Tiraspol” but always acted based on widely recognized rules. Gamurari emphasized that the Tiraspol airport can be part of the negotiations, but the already agreed solutions in the Transnistrian conflict settlement need to be implemented.

Some experts drew the attention to the fact that the Tiraspol airport is a military one and even has a military training field (more probably used by the Operative Group of Russian Troops) nearby.

Tiraspol Airport is a military airport situated about 4 kilometers from the center of Transnistria’s capital. Until 1989, it served as the airbase for USSR’s Air Force. After 1991, it stopped its regular activity with interruptions of incoming military planes of the Russian Federation with supplies and reinforcements for the peacekeeping mission on the Nistru river. Only in 2012, the leader of the separatist administration, Evgeny Shevchuk, proposed to reconstruct the airport from Russian money for civil purposes.

In 2017, Russia’s Deputy Prime-Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, was allegedly advised by the Moldovan authorities to not enter Moldova through Tiraspol’s airport on a Russian military aircraft.

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New monument of the “Russian warrior-peacekeeper” installed in Tiraspol

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On December 1st, a monument to the “Russia’s Warrior-Peacekeeper” was erected in Tiraspol, the so-called capital of the separatist Transnistria. The inauguration was supposed to happen on the occasion of the Day of the Russian Peacekeeper, celebrated in Russia on November 25th.

The monument was created at the initiative of the head of the Operative Group of the Russian Troops (OGRT), Dmitry Zelenkov and financed by the so-called Justice Ministry of the separatist republic as a sign of gratefulness of Transnistrian people to the effort to stop the war in 1992.

The ceremony was attended by the first president of the “republic”, Igor Smirnov, the head of the Russian delegation in the Joint Control Commission (JCC) Ilya Uvarov, the head of the Transnistrian delegation in JCC Oleg Belyakov, the “justice minister” Alexandr Shevchenko, as well as Zelenkov himself.

A day before, a 5 meters tall “Arch for Peace” was installed next to the road connecting Tiraspol and Bender. The arch was installed with the help of the Russian organization “Right for Peace” and with the aim to celebrate the role of the Russian peacekeepers in the conflict settlement in Transnistria.

It is worth noting that criticizing the peacekeeping mission is penally punishable in the so-called Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic since 2016.

The 25-years old peace-keeping mission in the buffer zone is maintained by around 402 Russian troops, 492 Transnistrian soldiers, 355 Moldovan ones and 10 Ukrainian military observers at 15 checkpoints.

Besides the 402 so-called peacekeepers, Russia holds the Operative Group of the Russian Forces in the Transnistrian region of Moldova containing approximately 1200 regular soldiers, mainly recruited among locals. The Group is the new shape of the former 14th Guards Army of the Soviet Union that is illegally stationed in Transnistria after the collapse of SU.

In August 2017, the Republic of Moldova addressed the United Nations with the request to include the issue of the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping forces from Transnistria to the agenda of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. In a letter from the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Moldova to the UN, Victor Moraru stated that the presence of Russian troops “constitutes a danger to the maintenance of international peace and security.” The subject was supposed to be discussed in the plenary session of the UN General Assembly on 23 October, but the very same Moldovan Representative to the UN asked for a delay of the discussion.

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Tiraspol refuses to discuss OSCE report on presence of its armed forces at the Gura Bîcului-Bîcioc bridge

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On November 30th, the Joint Control Commission (JCC) had a meeting focused on the measures needed to facilitate the traffic of vehicles on the recently opened Gura Bîcului-Bîcioc bridge.

The question of inviting the Ukrainian and the OSCE mission representatives to the meeting was promptly rejected by the representative of the Tiraspol administration, according to a press-release of the Moldovan delegation. The OSCE representatives were scheduled to present a report on the activity of the neighboring peacekeeping checkpoints (11 right and 11 left), but also the unilateral deployment by Tiraspol of new infrastructure, force structures and the increase of the latter before the entrance of the bridge. The delegation of the Russian Federation reportedly agreed to discuss the issue with the Commission.

At the same time, the Transnistrian delegation claimed that the OSCE Mission violated the limits of its mandate and those of the partnership with JCC by monitoring the peacekeeping checkpoints.

“We want to know what is this for, is the format of the work of the peacekeeping forces changing or a new monitoring mechanism is appearing? This generates some confusion”, declared Transnistrian delegation head, Oleg Belyakov, for the Transnistrian press.

The next meeting of the JCC is scheduled for 7 December 2017.

In the opening protocol, Chișinău and Tiraspol committed to not use Gura Bîcului-Bîcioc bridge for military goals and offered the Joint Control Commission the authority to open the bridge. However, it appears that the separatist authorities ignore the principle of free movement of people and goods between the two banks. The Transnistrian authorities apparently already activated a customs control checkpoint in Bîcioc which will most probably obstruct the free movement. Krasnoselsky himself with his prime-minister Alexandr Martynov visited the checkpoint after the inauguration of the bridge:

Source: novostipmr.com

Note: The Gura Bîcului-Bîcioc bridge over Nistru river was blown up by the Transnistrian separatist forces in 1992, then reconstructed in 2000 with the European financial support (30 million lei), but could not be inaugurated due to political misunderstandings between Chișinău and Tiraspol.

The Joint Control Commission ( Russian: Объединенная контрольная комиссия – ОКК, Romanian- Comisia Unificată de Control) is a trilateral peacekeeping force and joint military command structure from Moldova, Transnistria, and Russia, which operates in a buffer zone on the border between the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

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