Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Russia Warns Ukraine: Transdniestria Border Developments “Extremely Disturbing”

Russia Warns Ukraine: Transdniestria Border Developments “Extremely Disturbing”

It is worth taking note of an article in today’s ITAR-TASS[1] in which Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin warned that Russia “will not allow a repeat of the Ukrainian scenario in Transdniestria.”  He cautioned unspecified “others” that they “should have no illusions as to whether Russia will defend its citizens,” and not “to try Russia’s patience or strength.”

At the same time, the Romanian news outlet Mediafax reported “The Tiraspol separatist regime leader Yevgeny Shevchuk and foreign minister Nina Shtanski are on a visit to Moscow for talks on the region’s economic situation following the signing of the Republic of Moldova’s Association Agreement with the European Union.”[2]

Rogozin, who doubles as President Putin’s special envoy to Transdniestria, added, “Russia will never forget the recent tragedy in Odessa nor the one that played out in southeastern Ukraine.”  The “recent tragedy in Odessa” is a reference to the 2 May 2014 incident in which, as described in the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry’s July 2014 White Book, “more than 70 people died in a fire after clashes between independence supporters and Kiev-backed forces.”

According to the Russian language website PMRF,[3] “the PMR[4] is on the brink of disaster.”[5]  The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly accused Moldova and Ukraine of organizing a de-facto blockade of Transdniestria: as the ITAR-TASS report notes, Ukraine in July began excavating “a 450 kilometer long trench along its border with Transdniestria,” the purpose of which, ITAR-TASS claims, is “to provoke an escalation of tensions.”  The 3.5 meters wide by 3 meters deep security trench is part of “more intensive control of the border,” according to Ukraine’s Ambassador to Moldova, Sergey Pirozhkov, who added in a 15 September television interview with Moldova’s Publika TV, “Ukraine will never attack the unrecognized Transdniestrian republic.”

Rogozin’s warning today responded to Moldova’s Foreign Minister, Natalia Gherman’s appearance before the United Nations General Assembly last Thursday during which she demanded “The military of the Russian Federation had to leave the region, and peacekeeping arrangements should shift from the current military operation into a civilian multinational mission.”[6]  Gherman’s comments came a few days after negotiators from Moldova and Transdniestria announced the two sides failed to make progress on resuming their so-called “5+2 format” talks.  The “5+2” refers to “the 5″— Russia, Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union, and the United States— and “the 2″— Moldova and Transdniestria.  Last spring, Transdniestria suspended its participation in the talks when it accused Moldova of imposing an economic blockade on the region.

Russia maintains an estimated two thousand-man force in Transdniestria, which Ukraine sees as a staging ground to infiltrate and destabilize southwestern Ukraine, especially Odessa.  Russia does little to disabuse Ukraine of this suspicion: today, for example, an exhibition opened at Moscow’s Central Armed Forces Museum titled “Transdniestria: A Russian Frontier” which “emphasized the Transdniestrian region has become a natural part of the Russian economy and culture”[7] according to a Transdniestria government press release.

In response to the presence of Russian troops on its western border, Ukraine slowly deployed extra military personnel to the region; and recently, blocked Transdniestrian authorities from travelling abroad via Odessa as was their practice, forcing them instead to use Moldova’s Chișinău airport.  Small actions like this risk disproportionate effects, however: on 9 September, Transdniestrian deputy prime minister Maya Parnas, who was leading a governmental delegation to Moscow, was subjected to “an additional, all-out examination of her personal luggage by Moldovan customs officers,” who stated that they were fulfilling an “order from above” according to a statement by Trandniestria’s Foreign Ministry. The incident marked “the continuation of Moldova’s unfriendly and provocative steps aimed at further sharpening and escalation of differences between Tiraspol and Chisinau.”

[1] “Рогозин: Россия не допустит повторения украинского сценария на границах Приднестровья.” ITAR-TASS [online Russian language edition, 1 October 2014]. Last accessed 1 October 2014.

[2]  Ioana Bojan (2014). “Rogozin: Rusia îşi va proteja cetăţenii în cazul unui conflict armat în Transnistria. Răbdarea şi forţa noastră nu trebuie puse la încercare.” [online Romanian language edition, 1 October 2014]. Last accessed 1 October 2014.  The full quote reads in the original Romanian: “Liderul regimului separatist de la Tirasol, Evgheni Şevciuk, şi ministrul de Externe din regiunea transnistreană, Nina Ştanski, se află într-o vizită la Moscova, pentru discuţii referitoare la situaţia economică a regiunii în urma semnării de către Republica Moldova a Acordului de Asociere cu Uniunea Europeană.”

[3] The website ПМРФ [] describes itself as “a site dedicated to the inextricable link Dniester Moldavian Republic and the Russian Federation” [“это сайт, посвященный неразрывной связи Приднестровской Молдавской Республики и Российской Федерации”].  Even “the very name of the site can be traced this link: “DMR and RF” referring to, respectively, the “Dniester Moldavan Republic” (another name for Transdniestria) and the “Russian Federation”.

[4] Transdniestria’s official name is the “Pridnestrovian Moldavan Republic”.

[5] “В момент острой опасности для страны не время думать о монопольной власти.”” ПМРФ [Russian language online edition, 15 September 2014]. Last accessed 1 October 2014.

[6] Last accessed 1 October 2014.  ITAR-TASS reported her comments under the headline “Moldova demands Russian peacekeepers in Transdniestria be replaced by international civil mission.”

[7] “Мария Кырмыз приняла участие в открытии музейной экспозиции в Москве «Приднестровье – русский рубеж!».” Government of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic [Russian language website]. Last accessed 1 October 2014.  Interestingly, the exhition is not mentioned on the Museum’s website [].