On June 8th, the officers of the Moldova’s Patrol Inspectorate, confiscated the “diplomatic” number plates from the car belonging to the so-called foreign minister of the separatist Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic (PMR), Vitaly Ignatiev. As reported by Deschide.md, Ignatiev’s driver got a penalty case on violating 230th article (Contraventional Code) for noncompliance with the national standards of number plates and was told to go back.
According to interim head of Moldovan police Gheorghe Cavcaliuc, Ignatiev’s car was stopped outside of the Security Zone.
Tiraspol’s “MFA” sees it as another demarche-provocation, with the aim to worsen relations. The latest comment of the separatist “diplomatic” institution reads that the move follows the refusal of Moldova’s political representative, Reintegration Minister George Balan, to discuss the participation of Transnistria-registered cars in the international traffic.
Angry, PMR’s MFA demands the Moldovan authorities to return the number plates and come with explanations. In their turn, 5+2 international observers and moderators are asked to give a respective grade to Moldova’s actions.
It is worth mentioning that Transnistria has its own car number plates that are not accepted in the international traffic because of unrecognized status of the region. The Transnistria-registered cars can be driven on the right bank of Nistru if they have Moldovan insurance license.
Coronavirus in Transnistria: blocked roads, self-isolation, restricted access to banking services and medicines are still on
The state of emergency in Transnistria was declared on March 17, being extended twice. The last decision said it would last until June 15, INFOTAG News Agency informed.
About 2 weeks ago, some restrictions began to be lifted in the region – shopping malls, construction markets and grocery stores were reopened. Thus, a record number of COVID-19 reported cases followed, the total number of confirmed cases reaching 1003, according to the data provided by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection of Moldova (MHLSP).
One of the biggest contagion epicentres is located at the psycho-neurological boarding school from Bender – more than 160 people were infected there.
No transport available
In the context of the pandemic crisis, an imperative transportation problem was discussed by the Moldovan and Transnistrian officials: the residents of 4 villages from the left bank of the Dniester have to use a ferry in order to reach the other side. That is because the road, connecting the rural areas with the mainland Moldova, runs through a Transnistrian territory that has been blocked by illegal border checkpoints and barriers installed by separatists.
“A separate topic of discussion was the situation of the Moldovan villages of Molovata Noua, Vasilievca, Cocieri and Roghi on the left (eastern) bank of the Dniester River. They have found themselves isolated from the Republic of Moldova after the Transnistrian authorities introduced a state of emergency in the region,” announced President Igor Dodon after he lately met with the head of Dubasari district, Grigore Filipov.
It was decided that the ferry will make additional daily trips to meet the needs of the population and economic agents from the region, as a temporary solution.
Moldova’s Special Representative for Transnistria negotiations, Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, Cristina Lesnic, believes that the nature of the dialog between Chisinau and Tiraspol has changed during the pandemic period.
“After the beginning of the pandemic crisis and the state of emergency declaration in Moldova, the region was isolated. The Moldovan authorities’ decisions should apply to the entire territory, but Transnistria has adopted its own measures. […] The self-isolation of the Transnistrian region on the pretext of the pandemic began in mid-April, and now it is extended till June 15. The situation is connected to a restricted access both for the economic agents and officials from Moldova. Let me remind you that there are 320 thousand Moldovans living in the region, who are deprived of access to services on the right bank of the Dniester.”
In a meeting with foreign diplomats and international organisation representatives accredited in Moldova, Cristina Lesnic talked about the anti-crisis management possibilities created for businesses and the population of Transnistria since the beginning of the state of emergency, including facilitating the import of medicines and foodstuffs into the Transnistrian region, as well as returning home of Transnistrian residents from foreign countries.
On the other hand, more accusations against Moldovan authorities arrived, referring to the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration would not be willing to help to repatriate the inhabitants of the separatist region. That is while the legal public authorities of Moldova are the only ones entitled to negotiate the organisation of international passenger transport with the authorities of foreign states, according to the Bureau for Reintegration Policies from Moldova.
No banking services
Another issue discussed during the common meetings is the access of the population of Transnistria to banking services: in case people from the region are clients of a Moldovan or international bank, they can’t withdraw money from the ATMs located on the Transnistrian territory, as well as they can’t use their credit cards to pay products and services in Transnistrian rubles.
While Transnistrian news portals blamed the Moldovan authorities of blocking the possibility to pay using international card on the Transnistrian territory, officials from Chisinau gave assurances that no discriminatory or exaggerated approaches are applied to the bank customers from the Transnistrian region. The National Bank of Moldova specified that payments using MasterCard and Visa cards in Transnistria are possible, but only if payments are made through the POS terminals of banks licensed in Moldova. As the local currency (Transnistrian rubles) is not internationally recognised, it was proposed to use the Moldovan leu as a mean of cash payment.
(Almost) no financial support
About 450 individual entrepreneurs from Dubasari district will receive financial compensation from the Transnistrian authorities, in order to overcome the negative consequences of the pandemic crisis. The total budget for compensation amounts 182 500 Transnistrian rubles (about 10 140 euros). When divided to 450 companies that should receive financial support, it turns out that each company will receive about 23 euros for two months in which they stopped their activity.
A not working peacekeeping mechanism? When the Moldovan side requests, the Transnistrian one refuses
During the state of emergency in the Republic of Moldova, Chisinau authorities requested, for several times, the assistance of the OSCE Mission in monitoring the Security Zone and fixing the appeared violations, as well as their further investigation, according to a press release of the Bureau for Reintegration Policies from Moldova.
On May 20, a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, Cristina Lesnic, and Head of the OSCE Mission to the Republic of Moldova, Claus Neukirch, took place. There, security incidents were discussed.
Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration officially requested the presentation of an incidents’ list that were found by the OSCE, related to the illegal installation of border checkpoints by the Transnistrian side between March 16 and May 19. The incidents’ evaluation wasn’t possible to be made before, due to the fact that the departure of military observers has been prevented during the state of emergency.
“Chisinau insists on lifting the illegally installed border checkpoints, which restrict free movement and violate the commitments made in the Unified Control Commission, as well as those related to ensuring peace and the rule of law in the region. The peacekeeping mechanism must be operational,” is also mentioned in the press release.
The illegal border checkpoints and barriers around the border localities, as well as blocking the attempts of military observers from the Joint Peacekeeping Forces to regularly record the violations, were addressed in a meeting of Unified Control Commission on May 14. The meeting took place in Bender and was chaired by the head of the Delegation of the Republic of Moldova.
“It was pointed out that the abusive actions of the Transnistrian side affected the citizens’ rights to free movement, medical care, property and, as a consequence, generated tension in the Security Zone,” the officials noted. However, no consensus was reached at that meeting between the Moldovan and Transnistrian sides.
After declaring a state of emergency on the territory of the Republic of Moldova, the Unified Control Commission temporarily ceased its meetings in the city of Bender, trying to convene the meetings remotely. During the same period, under the pretext of managing the state of emergency, the Transnistrian authorities installed several ‘checkpoints’ in the perimeter of the Security Zone (a buffer area between Moldova and Transnistria).
When Moldovan authorities tried to discuss the existing security issues by initiating video-conference meetings, held in the presence of representatives of Ukraine and the OSCE Mission, the Transnistrian side refused to participate.
Besides, Transnistrian officials refused to attend the meeting on the public healthcare subjects, requested in video conference format at the headquarters of the OSCE Mission to the Republic of Moldova. The last such refusal was expressed on May 19, when a working group was supposed to discuss a number of topics related to the management of the epidemiological situation in the Republic of Moldova, including the Transnistrian region, as the Bureau for Reintegration Policies reported.
Previously, the Moldovan Government called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to send a mission to the Transnistrian region, where respecting basic human rights, including the population’s access to medical services can’t be guaranteed by the authorities from Chisinau. The request was made after the OSCE informed that a 5 + 2 meeting to resolve the Transnistrian conflict, requested by Chisinau, wouldn’t be convened.
Promo-LEX raised a red flag regarding two critical issues in Transnistria – freedom of expression and medical assistance in prisons
Two more official messages addressed to the Moldovan authorities and international mediation organisations were published these days by the Promo-LEX association. The messages claimed that such fundamental rights as the right to life and the right to freedom of expression are violated in the Transnistrian region.
“Freedom of expression in the Transnistrian region involves a number of issues related to the existence of abusive local rules, as well as the intimidation of region’s inhabitants,” is mentioned in the press release of Promo-LEX that urged representatives of the 5 + 2 negotiating format to ensure freedom of expression in the Transnistrian region.
The association announced that, in recent weeks, a number of intimidation cases of people who have tried to publicly reveal their problems related to corruption and legal abuses were identified. In some cases, people were detained.
In such a way, the case of Mihail Ermurachi came to light – a 70-year-old pensioner from Tiraspol who was alleged of committing crimes against the Transnistrian state after a private discussion he had in September 2019 was recorded and handed over to the local police officers. The discussion contained his declarations regarding the denial of the Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic as a state, as well as denial of the Transnistrian citizenship and qualification of the leader from Tiraspol as a “puppet and mercenary”. As a result, the old man could be sentenced to up to 11 years in jail.
“As the actions of local law enforcement institutions are unjustified and disproportionate to the acts committed, the Promo-LEX Association urges the competent authorities of the Republic of Moldova and representatives of the 5+2 negotiation format to closely monitor the trial, for not admitting an illegal conviction due to free expression of opinion,” is also stated in the press release.
At the same time, the dialogue between Tiraspol and Chisinau is not getting any better, despite the OSCE advice to continue the dialogue between the sides, now even more than before the pandemic crisis. “The sides need to exchange relevant data, evaluate existing public health risks and examine all forms of co-operation. Expert meetings on healthcare and other topics related to the current situation, such as banking issues, are important to find workable, mutually agreeable solutions to the benefit of the population. Such meetings will also help to prepare the ground for a substantial 5+2 meeting,” stated the Head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova, Claus Neukirch.
Especially, the impact of freedom of movement restrictions imposed by Tiraspol in response to the pandemic, including in the Security Zone was underlined. The Head of Mission reiterated the need for Tiraspol to rethink its current approach and to ensure that people can commute to their place of work, can access healthcare services, ATMs and other needs, and reminded that any changes to the regime of the Security Zone require prior approval of the Joint Control Commission, as an official notification of the OSCE Mission to Moldova informed.
The Promo-LEX association also called for the need to monitor places of detention in the Transnistrian region and to implement measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. “The Promo-LEX Association expresses its concern about the lack of reaction and debate on the issue of ensuring access to healthcare in penitentiary institutions in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova,” is mentioned in the notice.
The association estimated that about 100 detained persons from two prisons (5% of the total number of convicted or detained persons from Transnistria) would be infected already. “The penitentiary system includes a population at high risk of spreading diseases and faces risk factors in the context of COVID-19. […] The penitentiary medical system is poorly developed or almost non-existent in the Transnistrian region. Therefore, there can be no question of the existence of medical equipment necessary to deal with serious cases of COVID-19. […] In the absence of independent monitoring and transparency of information, in the absence of minimum guarantees for prompt and effective healthcare, the risk of violating the right to life of prisoners in the Transnistrian region is extremely high,” as it is said in the Promo-LEX public message.
According to the official data provided by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection, 4363 cases of infection with the new coronavirus have been reported in the Republic of Moldova to date, of which 541 cases were recorded in Transnistria.
Photo: Anton Poleakov| The Guardian
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