NEWS

Why Russia could invade this region of neighboring Moldova

Moldova has expressed concern over what it says were unauthorized movements by Russian military forces in the breakaway Transdniester region.

The Reintegration Policy Bureau, a government department that handles the Transdniester issue and is led by one of Moldova's two deputy prime ministers, said on June 15, 2018, that the Moldovan government had notified the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) about what it called the unauthorized deployment of military trucks and equipment in the region controlled by separatists.


A day earlier, Moldovan authorities filmed some 40 trucks and other military vehicles with Russian symbols and license plates moving along a main road linking the northern and southern parts of Transdniester, a sliver of land along the Ukrainian border in eastern Moldova, the statement said.

The separatist government in Transdniester said it was not involved, while representatives of the Russian troops in the region said they would comment on the situation later.

Also on June 15, 2018, Moldovan Foreign Minister Tudor Ulianovschi announced that the UN General Assembly will discuss the possible withdrawal of some Russian troops from Transdniester on June 22, 2018.

"In the context of the crisis in Ukraine, the stepping up of military activity by Russian troops and Transdniester forces is fanning tensions in this European region," Ulianovschi said.

Authorities in Moldova and other countries in the region have registered increased concerns about Moscow's intentions since Russia seized Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014 and threw its support behind armed separatists in eastern Ukraine, helping fuel a war that has killed more than 10,300 people and still continues.

In 2014, there were concerns that Russian and separatist forces would seek to sweep across southern Ukraine to Transdniester and the rest of Moldova.

Frozen Conflict

Pro-Russian separatists in Transdniester declared independence from Moldova in 1990, amid concerns that it would seek reunification with Romania as the Soviet Union fell apart. In 1992, the separatists fought a war against government forces in which some 1,000 people were killed.

The conflict has been frozen since Russian troops stationed in Transdniester during the Soviet era intervened on the side of the separatists.

Transdniester's independence is not recognized by any internationally recognized country, but Moscow has been unofficially backing the separatists' self-declared government.

A 1992 cease-fire agreement established the presence of a contingent of Russian peacekeepers in Transdniester along with Moldovan and Transdniester counterparts.

Separately, some 1,400 Russian troops remain in Transdniester guarding Soviet-era arms depots, although Russia pledged to withdraw them at an OSCE summit in 1999.

The withdrawal proposed by Chisinau concerns those troops, which are known as the Operational Group of Russian Troops.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.