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US Army Europe General Hodges: The “peacekeepers” in Transnistria are no peacekeepers

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In a recent interview for Ukrainian Censor, the commander of the United States Army in Europe, Lieutenant General Frederick (Ben) Hodges argues that several scenarios are possible in the case of Russian invasion in Ukraine.

Talking about Georgian 2008 scenario, General Hodges brings up the example that the around 10000 Russian troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia were not withdrawn until now. Moreover, he doubts the peacekeeping character of the Russian troops in Moldova’s breakaway region, Transnistria:

“1500 Russian military “peacekeepers” in Transnistria- of course, they are no “peacekeepers”, it is a group for supporting instability around Ukraine”, says Hodges.

Hodges believes that Russia’s attempts to encircle Ukraine, and its other neighbors, with troops is nothing but a mean of pressuring them not to join the EU or approach the West.

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

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

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Tiraspol intends to build a “customs terminal” next to the Gura Bîcului-Bîcioc bridge

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22 February 2018- The separatist administration from Tiraspol again disagreed to discuss the issue of concentration of armed forces and border infrastructure next to the Gura Bîcului-Bîcioc bridge.

According to a press-release of the Moldovan delegation, the Transnistrian delegation rejected the proposal of the Russian representatives to the Joint Control Commission (JCC) on abstaining from unilateral actions of modifying infrastructure and the nominal quantity of force structures in the area adjacent to the Gura Bîcului-Bîcioc bridge.

In a declaration to the JCC, the Moldovan delegation is describing the deployed infrastructure and armed forces of Tiraspol to the newly opened bridge:

“…in the night preceding 17 November 2017, at the entrance of the bridge from Bîcioc, the force structure of Transnistria unilaterally installed a new control checkpoint with the respective infrastructure: three wagons for the personnel, two modules with the inscription “Migration Service”, barriers as gates. From that day on, around 5 workers of the “border forces”, 2 “customs officers” and 2 representatives of the “migration service” are working there”, reads the statement, which accuses the Transnistrians of provoking the situation in the Security Area.

The Moldovan delegation, led by Ivan Solonenko, believes that the real intention of the Tiraspol regime is installing a fully-fledged “border customs terminal” without informing the JCC and by violating the inviolability of the Security Area. In conclusion, representatives of Chișinău are calling on the guarantors and mediators of the peacekeeping process on Nistru river to apply pressure on the Transnistrians to refrain from unilateral and not agreed upon actions with unpredictable consequences.

The call of the Moldovans was reportedly supported by the co-chairman of the JCC, Ilya Uvarov, that repeatedly called to identify solutions for fully reopening the bridge over Nistru.

In the Transnistrian press, Tiraspol’s representative declared that the dialogue within the JCC is “constructive” and that the situation in the Security Area “stays stable and manageable”.

The next meeting of the JCC is delayed for 1 March 2018.

Reopened only in November 2017, 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 bridge is currently in the competence of the Joint Control Commission, who controls the peacekeeping troops in the neighbouring area.

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 most probably obstructs the free movement. Krasnoselsky himself with his prime-minister Alexandr Martynov visited the checkpoint after the inauguration of the bridge.

Note: 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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Chișinău and Tiraspol review progress on agreements, sign protocol decision on veterinary, quarantine and plant protection measures

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The Moldovan and Transdniestrian Chief Negotiators, Cristina Lesnic (l) and Vitaly Ignatiev (r), sign a Protocol Decision on veterinary, quarantine and plant protection measures, at the OSCE Mission to Moldova, Chisinau, 15 February 2018. Source: OSCE/Iurie Foca

15 February 2018- The first meeting in the 1+1 format the Moldovan and Transdniestrian Chief Negotiators, Cristina Lesnic and Vitaly Ignatiev, respectively, took place in Chișinău at the OSCE Mission building.

According to the press-release of the OSCE Mission to Moldova, Lesnic and Ignatiev reviewed the progress achieved in the implementation of 4 out of 5 agreements signed in November 2017:

In the first two months of 2018, the Sides have locked in an agreement on the increased capacity of the Gura Bicului-Bychok bridge to make it accessible to vehicles of up to 10 tonnes, ensured the functioning of the Moldova-administered Latin-script schools, agreed on the apostilization of educational documents issued in Transdniestria, and restored Moldovan farmers’ access to their land in the Dubasari district.

At the same time, Lesnic urged the Transnistrian negotiator to unblock the access of farmers from Dubăsari district to their lands in order to start the spring agricultural works.

The parties promised to achieve agreement in the next few months on a mechanism to allow vehicles from the Transnistrian region to participate in international road traffic. A meeting of the working group on the transportation issues was scheduled for 21 February.

Aside from the talks, Lesnic and Ignatiev signed a protocol decision on veterinary, quarantine and plant protection measures, which would facilitate the harmonization of standards to the European level.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, Transnistria’s “foreign minister” Ignatiev stated that he insisted on stopping the “politically-motivated cases” and ensuring the full functioning of the railway transportation in the region. Moreover, Ignatiev announced that Chișinău and Tiraspol agreed to restart the working groups on banking and human rights issues.

Note: On 25 November 2017, accompanied by 5+2 mediators and observers, Moldova’s Reintegration Minister George Balan and the so-called “foreign minister” of Transnistria Vitaly Ignatiev signed 4 protocols elaborated at the expert groups level. The protocols focus on 4 key issues:

  • Recognition of diplomas issued by education institutions in the Transnistrian region– the parties agreed to Chișinău accepting (“apostilization”) a neutral diploma issued in Transnistria;
  • Elimination of barriers in the telecommunication domain- establishing a direct connection of fixed and the mobile telephone network, as well as internet, after the negotiations between operators on both banks of Nistru river;
  • Elimination of barriers to the functioning of Romanian language (Latin script) schools in Transnistria- setting minimal rent and utility prices for the buildings rented out to these schools, setting 10 years as the minimal rent period for the buildings, providing the adjacent lands in use to the schools, providing conditions for free movement of teachers and pupils of these schools, but also the needed materials for their functioning;
  • Allowing farmers to use their lands across Tiraspol-Camenca road in Dubăsari district- applying the “2006 Mechanism” of distributing the lands to those persons owning them initially, stopping the use of lands by Transnistrian firms or persons (2014 distribution), stopping the penal cases against the latter by Chișinău.
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Reintegration

Moldova’s Foreign Minister Tudor Ulianovschi met Russian FM Sergey Lavrov at the Munich Security Conference

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Source: mfa.gov.md

17 February 2018- Moldova’s Foreign Minister, Tudor Ulianovschi, met with Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, at the Munich Security Conference, in Germany.

The two officials reportedly exchanged opinions on the agenda of the bilateral relations, underlining the need for improving the political dialogue. Ulianovschi and Lavrov also talked about the importance of continuing the negotiations on identifying a political solution in the Transnistrian conflict, on the basis of respect to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova.

Recently, the Moldo-Russian relations have gotten colder. Russia accuses Moldova of violating the right to information by imposing a ban on Russian TV, while Moldova accuses Russia of meddling in the Moldovan politics through party financing, propaganda but also abuse against Moldovan officials.

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