The withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria: second attempt
Moldova is demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria, and plans to put this issue forward at the UN General Assembly on 22 June.
The withdrawal of Russian troops from the left side of the Dniester was supposed to be discussed at a session last year, but shortly before the beginning of the meeting, Chisinau unexpectedly requested that it be removed from the agenda. Ziarul de Garda (ZdG) has the details:
A bill called ‘On the complete and unconditional withdrawal of foreign military forces from the territory of the Republic of Moldova’ was put forward for discussion by Moldovan diplomats.
There are already 10 signatures on the bill from member states of the UN, including that of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova, Tudor Ulyanovski.
“The Moldovan authorities insist on the unconditional and complete withdrawal of Russian troops,” said the minister, “because they are illegally on the territory of Moldova.”
Moldova cited the Ceasefire agreement concluded with Russia some 26 years ago in July 1992. According to the document, the Russian side agreed to gradually withdraw its troops from the territory of Moldova including from the breakaway Transnistrian Moldovan Republic.
Two years later, in 1994, Russia and Moldova signed another document, which stipulated the conditions in which Russia would ‘gradually withdraw’ its military units that were temporarily on the territory of Moldova.
The authorities of Moldova stress that they are talking about the ‘Operative Group of Russian Forces’ (OGRF) in Transnistria, and not about Russian peacekeepers which are included in the united peacekeeping contingent.
The OGRF is the successor of the 14th Guards Army of the Armed Forces of the USSR, which was located in Transnistria during the high point of the conflict. After the signing of the ceasefire agreement with Russia, this group was ‘re-formatted’ into the OGRF. The authorities of Moldova have stated on numerous occasions that the OGRF is illegally on the territory of Moldova and that it supports the Transnistrian side of the conflict and, in particular, performs military training. One of the training sessions, a simulation of the taking of the Dniester river, was mentioned in a statement made by Minister Ulyanovski.
The Moldovan authorities believe that there are 1 500-1 700 Russian troops in Transnistria which have 21 000 tonnes of ammunition at their disposal.
Last year, the Moldovan authorities asked the UN General Assembly to postpone the discussion of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria. For many in Moldova, this was a surprise. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not react to the many questions of the media until much later, but on 15 June the head of the ministry, Tudor Ulyanovski, unexpectedly said that the bill would again be put on the agenda of the UN General Assembly.
“The public [then] said that the government had changed its position [on the resolution -ed]. I would like to announce that the state has not stepped away from its proposal.”
Moldova expects the UN to support its resolution.
In turn, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the unrecognised republic, Vitaly Ignatyev, noted that: “No decisions concerning a change in the format of the peace-keeping operation or withdrawal of a peace-keeping mechanism will be made without taking into consideration the opinion and position of the people of Transnistria. We are categorically against any actions which will threaten the peace and security on the Dniester.”
It is worth noting that this position is more or less supported by the president of Moldova himself. Igor Dodon believes that passing the resolution will worsen Chisinau’s position, particularly when ‘the earliest possible achievement of a political settlement of the Transnistrian conflict’ is considered.