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News 23 Oct 17

Moldova Seeks Russian Troop Withdrawal from Transnistria

Russia is holding military manoeuvres in Transnistria as the UN gets ready to discuss Moldova’s request for Moscow to withdraw its troops from the separatist region.

Madalin Necsutu
BIRN
Chisinau
Russian peacekeepers' barracks in Transnistria. Photo: Clay Gililand /Flikr 

The UN General Assembly is to discuss by the end of October Chisinau’s request for Moscow’s forces to leave Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway area of eastern Moldova, as the Russian troops continue manoeuvres in the separatist region.

The Moldovan authorities are trying to obtain a resolution that will force Russia to honour a commitment it undertook at the OSCE Summit in Istanbul in 1999 and pull out its soldiers.

Moscow maintains some 1,200 troops of the 14th Soviet Army, now called the Operative Group of Russian Troops (OGRT), in the so-called Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic.

The Kremlin says its soldiers are deployed in Transnistria in order to keep an eye on the biggest Soviet-era ammunition depot in eastern Europe, located in Colbasna.

Russia also has 400 peacekeepers in the breakaway region, but they have often been a subject of dispute between the Moldovan government and the separatist administration in Tiraspol.

On January 1, 2012, a Russian peacekeeper shot dead an 18-year-old man on the Vadul lui Vodă bridge after he didn't stop his car when the peacekeepers required.

The incident made headlines in Moldova and caused uproar among its people, who largely oppose the presence of Russian military in Transnistria.

Russian peacekeepers carried out a military unit rotation during this weekend in Transnistria, the latest among 70 military manoeuvres in 2017, including exercises to cross the Dniester River into government-controlled Moldova.

The Russian troop movements and manoeuvres in cooperation with the separatists’ troops raised concerns in Chisinau, where the army is going through a political crisis, caught in skirmishes between the pro-Russian president, Igor Dodon, and the pro-European government.

Meanwhile, the Transnistrian separatist leader Vadim Krasnoselski, alleged in an interview with Russian TV station Center, that the Moldovan authorities do not want to solve these issues by negotiation.

“The desire to expel the Russian presence from here [Transnistria], both the peacekeepers and the OGTR, is preparation for a military conflict,” Krasnoselski claimed.

 

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