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

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General Hodges brings up the example that the around 10000 Russian troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia were not withdrawn until now.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. Inquiries at [email protected]

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Russia sides with Tiraspol on the “border checkpoints” at Gura Bîcului-Bîcioc bridge

26 April 2018- Another session of the Joint Control Commission took place in Bender this week. After accepting the end of the mandate of a Russian military observer, Vitaly Bogarchuk, the JCC went on with the discussion of the weekly reports on the Security Area.

The discussion was more intense on the solution for the illegal installing of the “border checkpoints” of the Transnistrian administration next to the Gura Bîcului-Bîcioc bridge.

According to the press-release of the Moldovan delegation, the solution of eliminating the checkpoints of the “border policemen”, “customs officers” and “migrational officers” was proposed again to the JCC. The Moldovan delegation reiterated its proposal on creating a joint mechanism of ensuring free movement on the bridge by the Joint Peacekeeping Forces, the Moldovan police, and the Transnistrian “militsia”.

Unlike before, the head of the Russian delegation, Ilya Uvarov, sided this time with the Transnistrian delegation and rejected the proposal of the Chișinău delegates. The given reason for rejecting the proposal was the claim that the issue is not within the competences of the JCC, but a topic for the political representatives to negotiate. According to Novostipmr, the Transnistrian delegation head, Oleg Belyakov, complained that Moldovan representatives made insults, while not analyzing the proposals of Tiraspol.

The debate was closed and left for the session on 3 May.

Previously, Chișinău proposed that, in accordance with the JCC principles and the 1992 Agreement, a viable solution for Gura Bîcului-Bîcioc bridge would be leaving the competence of ensuring free movement and road safety at the given bridge to the Joint Peacekeeping Forces (checkpoint number 11 is nearby), but also to the Moldovan road police and the Transnistrian similar structure (ГАИ).

Chișinău proposes that car traffic on Gura Bîcului-Bîcioc bridge be checked only by peacekeepers and road policemen

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 neighboring 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.

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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Dodon with Krasnoselski at Bender: Peacekeeping mission on Nistru needs to continue

25 April 2018- The President of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Dodon, conducted a visit to the Transnistrian region and had talks with the local leader Vadim Krasnoselski at Bender.

According to the Presidency press-release, Dodon and Krasnoselski exchanged their opinions on the implementation of a “package of eight” agreed by them in January 2017, especially in the case of the free movement across the Nistru river banks. Both welcomed the signing of the protocol decision on the participation of Transnistrian cars in the international traffic.

A common position was held on the viability of the peacekeeping mission:

“We discussed the role of the peacekeeping mission on Nistru. I want to confirm my position about the success of this mission and I want to underline that all parties involved are fulfilling their obligations. I think that this mission should be continued and it is inconvenient to raise questions on shutting it down…”, said Dodon quoted by the Transnistrian “Presidency”.

“I am sure that we deserved peace in our land and (this) peacekeeping (mission) should be researched and applied in other conflict zones, but not excluded. Nevertheless, there is a lot of discussion on the Operative Group of Russian Troops. Transnistria traditionally sees OGRT as a part of the peacekeeping (mission)”, declared Krasnoselski.

Dodon and Krasnoselski also mentioned that they would meet more regularly.

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Chișinău and Tiraspol agree on admission of Transnistrian cars into international traffic

The Moldovan and Transdnistrian Chief Negotiators, Cristina Lesnic (l) and Vitaly Ignatiev (r), sign an agreement on the mechanism for the participation of vehicles from Transnistria in international road traffic, Bender, 24 April 2018. (OSCE/Anna Vorobeva)

24 April 2018- The owners of vehicles registered in the Transnistrian region will be able to receive neutral license plates for admission into the international traffic starting from 1 September 2018. An agreement in this regard was signed in Bender between the Moldovan constitutional authorities and the Tiraspol separatist administration.

According to a press-release of the Moldovan Reintegration Bureau, the neutral license plates of non-commercial vehicles will have three letters and three numbers. The car license is agreed by both parties, in accordance with the 1969 Vienna Convention.

The registration of Transnistrian vehicles will be conducted in the offices in Tiraspol and Râbnița with the participation of the Moldovan authorities. Chișinău and Tiraspol will reportedly have two different databases on the vehicles with neutral plates. The car owners wanting to keep their Transnistrian number plates will be able to travel only within the territory of Moldova- one car cannot have one neutral and one Transnistrian plate at the same time.

The protocol decision (Tiraspol’s “MFA” published it in Russian) will be applied since 1 September 2018. The parties reserved their right to suspend the mechanism in case of systematic violations.

The Head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova, Ambassador Michael Scanlan, commended the leadership and collaboration demonstrated by the Sides: “It is the constructive negotiation approach between the Sides and the personal engagement of the Moldovan and Transdniestrian leadership, which made this success possible. It is a success story for both Chisinau and Tiraspol”, he said. “When the joint implementation of the new mechanism begins this September, the trust between the Sides will deepen even further.”

The European Union welcomed the agreement between Chișinău and Tiraspol, describing it as a “positive dynamic in the Transnistrian settlement process”, but pointing at the importance of swift and thorough implementation of the agreement.

The US Department of State also welcomed the agreement on the Transnistrian participation in international traffic:

The United States supports a comprehensive settlement of the Transnistria conflict, and we welcome this week’s agreement to allow vehicles from Transnistria to legally travel on roads outside of Moldova. This will bring real benefits to the lives of people on both sides of the Nistru River. 

Many experts and civil society representatives in Chișinău criticized the Moldovan authorities for giving away sovereignty to the Transnistrian regime:

“This submission is absolutely unjustified, because it does not reffer to neither the human rights, nor the Transnistrian conflict settlement (…) (This) does not get us close, but puts us away from the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict. First, the documents institutionalize the acts issued by the anti-constitutional structures on the left bank of Nistru. This document does not get us close to the conflict settlement and risks to become a dangerous precedent for Ukraine”, IPP expert Oazu Nantoi told Ziarul de Gardă.

“I think it is needless to mention that through these projects, the sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova and the Tiraspol regime is effectively legalized through the policy of small steps. At the same time, these projects represent major risks for the fiscal discipline and budget collection. This mechanism creates new premises for avoiding the standard car import procedure and allows the Tiraspol regime to get new financial resources, the registration of vehicles through corruption schemes…”, writes Expert-Grup expert Sergiu Gaibu for

Quoted by, IDIS Viitorul expert Rosian Vasiloi accused the OSCE Ambassador Scanlan of too much involvement in the negotiation process on the Transnistrian cars’ issue, a problem that does not contribute but further distances the conflict settlement. Vasiloi also criticized the brought example of German regional license plates:

„The German Ambassador made reference to the German model of registering cars. But we cannot apply it in the Republic of Moldova, because in Germany all mechanisms are regulated by the national law and the lands are part of an united country, which we lack here”, said Vasiloi.

The issue of Transnistrian vehicles’ participation in the international traffic has been included on the agenda in the Berlin protocol from 2016.

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