Moldova

Transnistria Open to Freight Traffic

In early May, the European Union welcomed the resumption of railroad freight traffic through the break-away state of Transnistria*, sandwiched between Ukraine and Moldova. Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, described the event as “a crucial step forward for restoring confidence between the sides to the Transnistrian issue.” Freight traffic across the region had been suspended for the past six years, owing largely to the unsettled dispute between Transnistria and Moldova; Moldova claims the entire territory of the unrecognized state, and most of the international community backs the Moldovan position. Seemingly endless negotiations, however, have finally brought some progress. Recently, the two sides:

[A]nnounced they had reached common ground on other issues that will be soon translated into life, such as building cooperation on healthcare between the two banks of Nistru River in order to deliver quality health services, resumption of the phone connection between the two banks of the river, suspended a couple of years ago, resumption of road traffic on the bridge in Gura Bicului; simplification of transit of Transnistria in summer ; arrangements for 100 children on the right bank of the Nistru River to spend the summer holidays in camps.
The experts named in charge of these areas are expected to identify real solutions in the near future.

Transnistria is widely regarded as a Russian client state that is a center of human trafficking, the arms trade, and drug transshipments. Its international diplomatic standing is highly limited. As the Wikipedia article on the “Foreign relations of Transnistria” reads in its entirely:

The Transnistrian republic is currently recognized by three states with limited recognition [South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh], and is member of one international organization, the Community for Democracy and Human Rights, that was established by these four states. Russia maintains a consulate in Transnistria, but hasn’t recognized it as independent state. During a visit to Kiev, President Dmitri Medvedev said he supported “special status” for Transnistria and recognised the “important and stabilising” role of the Russian army.

On the cultural front, Armenia recently announced that it would “build a church in honor of great Armenian Enlightener Gregory Illuminator in Grigoriopol, Transnistria.” Armenians settled extensively in the Romanian-Moldovan-Transnistrian area in earlier centuries, and Grigoriopol was founded by Armenian immigrants in 1792. In recent years, the city has seen been the focus of Russian-Moldovan tensions. Although Transnistria as a whole has a clear Russian-Ukrainian majority, Moldovans constitute the largest community in Grigoriopol. As the Wikipedia article on the town explains:

[L]ocal Moldavian inhabitants [wanted] to use Romanian language and Latin script in the local Moldavian school, which is against the policy of the government of Transnistria. The Transnistrian press attacked the local authorities “that allowed the fifth column of Moldova in Transnistria to operate.

* Officially, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic

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Transnistria–Stranger than Paradise

Ukrainian Foriegn Minister Pyotor Poroshenko and Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat and Vice Prime Minister Iurie Leanca have agreed to an official border demarcation process, for the beginning of the 2010 calendar year.

To nobody’s surprise, the border negotiations were held without a representative from Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, the de-facto rogue state that holds the east bank of the Dniester River, and some parts of the Western bank. In essence, the majority of the Ukranian-Moldovan border, as pictured here:

The state of Transnistria is recognized by only Abhkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian troops been stationed have occupied Transnistria since the end of the Transnistrian war of 1992. Transnistria has been effectively blockaded by both of its neighbors since, but it still holds vital territorial control over the Dniester River, Moldova’s corridor to the Black Sea.

Ukranian President Victor Yushenko, however, had to cancel his trip to ‘peg driving ceremony,’ to official demark the border, as PMR made it clear that he and his entourage were not welcome to mark a border, agreed on without their consent. Yushenko’s visit was subsequently cancelled by the PMR, who then threatened to interfere with the ceremony.

There is no love lost between Yushenko and the PMR, who are backed by Russian troops. After all, Russophiles have already given Yushenko a treatment of Dioxin poisoning.

While the border confirmation talks have been pushed in their respective nations domestic press as a way to ensure for better protection for Ukranian Minorities in Moldova, and vice versa, the negotiations are trivial without any process on the Transnistiran issue. A breakthrough is unlikely, given the icy diplomatic relations between both Moldova and the Ukraine towards Russia.

The Transnistrian issue is complicated by a near even ethnic split between Moldovans, Ukranians, and Russians in the region, if you’re willing to believe the Transnistrian government.

The near 30-30-30 ethnic split on this chart, is decent evidence that we won’t see a clean resolution of this issue any time soon. Note that the elimination of Jews from the ethnic map, owes to the fact that Transnistria was a concentration camp during the holocaust.

Even with EU pressure to resolve this regional border dispute, it seems 2010 will be another year of political limbo for Transnistria. NATO resolutions in the past on the area, have not budged the conflict, and the Russian Military is unlikely to withdraw.

It’s hard believe that these recent discussions between the Moldovan and Ukranian parties could be anything more than a mutual acknowledgment of the political stalemate, or discussions on how to approach Russia, who “guarantees the protection of its citizens.” As shown here, this is a polarizing issue in the region.

But, if we take a step back, Transnistria has always been a source of geographical comic relief.Take a look at their government’s ten facts to boast about. If they only had more than ten.

Unfortunately for us, the West’s best window in to the Transnistrian calamity has recently closed. The Tiraspol Times, a Pravda styled, English language newspaper focused on Transnistria has ceased publishing. However, you can revisit the glory days of Soviet styled journalism, at through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

The now defunct press, and the coat of arms make Transnistria appear as if it is, in fact the last vestige of the Soviet Union.

Scenic, Tiraspol, where the statue of Lenin still proudly stands in front of the capital. Looks like this going to be there for a while. At the very least, we can hope that the peace holds in Transnistria for another year.

 

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