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News 21 Jul 17

Russian Planned Visit to Transnistria Angers Moldova

A planned visit to Moldova - and to the breakway region of Transnistria - by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin planned for later July is causes more tension between Chisinau and Moscow. 

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. Photo: Dmitry Rogozin/Facebook

A planned visit by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to both Moldova and the pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria is causing more tension in Chisinau, where the pro-Western governmenthas vowed to block it.

A Russian military delegation, including Rogozin, is set to visit Moldova and the breakaway region of Transnistria at the end of July and mark the 25th anniversary of the Russian peacekeeping force's deployment in the region after a bloody conflict ended with a truce in 1992.

While Moldova's pro-Russian President supports the visit, the Moldovan Foreign Ministry notified the Russian embassy on Wednesday that Moldova will not allow Rogozin to land at Chisinau airport with a Russian Air Force delegation because Moldova has banned Russian military access to its territory since 2014, when the Ukrainian conflict started.

“Expressing regret over the lack of a common plan to mark the 25th anniversary of the peacekeeping mission on the Dniester River, the Moldovan authorities deem these unilateral events inappropriate,” the message said.

Rogozin responded on Thursday on Twitter, saying he intended to come regardless. “I don’t understand who and what they forbid me to do. I will definitely arrive [in Moldova]. I will meet Moldova’s President and the leadership of the Dniester Moldovan Republic,” he wrote.

He also noted that he had been invited to Moldova by the pro-Russian President, Igor Dodon.

Dodon announced the visit on his Facebook account on Wednesday, after a meeting with the Russian ambassador to Moldova, Farit Muhametshin.

Dodon said in the message that he wished to talk to Rogozin about the situation in Transnistria and the tensions caused by the newly inaugurated Moldovan-Ukrainian joint border checkpoint which worries the separatists in Tiraspol.

He also said he will do everything to reassure the fears of the authorities in Tiraspol and avoid them suffering any economic losses.

The checkpoint, operational since the end of May, was inaugurated by Moldovan Prime Minister Pavel Filip and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the beginning of the week.

According to the Moldovan government, it will make traffic more fluid and curb smuggling which has been rampant in the region.

But the regime in Tiraspol expressed worries that the presence of Moldovan security forces on its territory could lead to violent incidents and accused the government in Chisinau of trying to impose a blockade on Transnistria.

It would be Rogozin’s second time in Chisinau, after Dodon’s inauguration as President in December 2016, when bad weather caused his plane to be diverted to Hungary, delayed his arrival and forced Dodon to receive him at 3am.

On Thursday, Dodon replied to Rogozin’s Twitter post: “Dmitri Olegovich, we will gladly receive you. You are welcome.”

Relations between the government in Chisinau and Moscow have often been tense since Moldova declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990 and especially after the pro-Russian separatists in Transnistria declared the region’s independence from Moldova.

The fighting ended with a truce in 1992, with the Russian 14th Army establishing a peacekeeping mission in the breakaway region.

However, in recent months other diplomatic rows have flared with Moldova’s pro-European government.

It banned its officials from traveling to Russia after several Moldovan investigators and envoys complained of being harassed by Moscow airport security during an inquiry into a money laundering network that used Moldovan banks.

The Moldovan government also expelled five Russian diplomats accused of committing repeated felonies on Moldovan territories despite being officially warned not to.

One of the diplomats was accused of involvement in an espionage case. Russia responded in kind, by expelling five Moldovan diplomats, despite efforts by Dodon to calm the atmosphere.

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