Accessibility links

Breaking News

Moldova: President Calls For International Peacekeepers In Breakaway Transdniester Region

Vladimir Voronin with Russian President Vladimir Putin (file photo) Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin has called for an international peacekeeping force to replace the Russian peacekeepers in Transdniester. In an interview with RFE/RL, Voronin accused the Russian peacekeepers of siding with the separatists in their long-running dispute with Moldova. Voronin also admitted that Moldova's relations with Russia, Ukraine, and the Commonwealth of Independent States have cooled.

Chisinau, 24 September 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin told RFE/RL yesterday that the current format of five-party negotiations between Moldova and its breakaway Transdniester region is no longer working.

Voronin said unnamed forces in Russia and Ukraine, who together with Moldova, Transdniester, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are part of the mediation process, have been covertly supporting the separatists.

"We have been [involved] in negotiations that we realize now will never end. During the years of talks [since 1992], the authorities of the self-styled Transdniester regime became very strong in several respects. That's why it is impossible to continue the five-party negotiating format. Behind [the Transdniester leadership] are the so-called peacekeeping forces, who were supposed to help us resolve the problem -- but who are actually directing [Transdniestrian leader Igor] Smirnov. It's clear these forces are from the Russian Federation and Ukraine," Voronin told RFE/RL.

Voronin said the 500-strong Russian contingent of peacekeepers stationed in Transdniester should be replaced by international peacekeepers. "We must review the components of these [peacekeepers], who from 1992 have been on a mission to Transdniester. They have turned into forces who support only one side, and we have to find a possibility to change this situation and replace these forces with international peacekeepers," he said.

Transdniester declared independence from then-Soviet Moldova in 1990, because of fears that the Romanian-speaking majority in the republic might seek reunification with neighboring Romania. The two sides fought a short but bloody conflict in 1992, which was quelled by Russian forces already stationed in the region.

The dispute has not yet been resolved in spite of mediation initiatives under the auspices of the OSCE, involving also Russia and Ukraine. In the meantime, parts of Transdniester have evolved into havens for smugglers and criminals.
Voronin said he sees similarities between the crises this summer in Transdniester and in Georgia's separatist, pro-Russian South Ossetia region. Voronin said he believes both were orchestrated by outside forces.

Relations between the Moldovan government and Transdniester were badly strained by Transdniester's decision this summer to close down Romanian-language schools on its territory. The international community protested the closings -- calling them "linguistic cleansing."

Voronin snubbed a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit in Kazakhstan this month. The gesture was widely seen as indicating worsening relations between Moldova and Russia, Ukraine, and the CIS. Voronin said that in fact, relations have cooled.

"Relations [with Russia and Ukraine on the one hand, and the CIS on the other] are indeed colder, although we maintain our position that activity within CIS is a good opportunity for better bilateral and multilateral relations. But the main cause for my not [attending the Kazakhstan CIS summit] was that the summit was a festive one rather that a working one. Furthermore, we have not received any answer to our letter addressed to Russia and Ukraine regarding the crisis of the Moldovan schools in Transdniester that began in August," Voronin said.

Voronin also launched new accusations about Transdniester's alleged involvement in illegal arms manufacturing and smuggling, as well as other criminal activities, including links with international terrorist groups. He explained: "Our statements are based on facts and evidence that we have, such as those which we gave European organizations about the fact that 13 Transdniester factories produce weapons nonstop. [These are] not simple weapons, but sophisticated ones. Furthermore, they have institutes that design such weapons. That means, that if it is being produced, somebody needs it. Secondly, there's the human trafficking to and from Transdniester, which we cannot control. And thirdly, there's all this smuggling. This is the basis for our statements about this regime, which is a black hole of smuggling, of corruption, of mafia-controlled businesses in the center of Europe."

Voronin said he sees similarities between the crises this summer in Transdniester and in Georgia's separatist, pro-Russian South Ossetia region. Voronin said he believes both were orchestrated by outside forces.

"In any case, the scenarios [in Georgia and Moldova] are quite similar. The only difference is that we are doing everything possible to avoid falling prey to provocations and, God forbid, to take up arms or other means which would have irreversible consequences. But, in general, this whole tactic is very well-known to us. It has been used before, and now it is being repeated, and the conductors [behind the scenes] are the same," Voronin said.

For the latest news on the tensions in Transdniester, see RFE/RL's webpage on Transdniester and Moldova.