The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) has expressed concern about Russian forces’ "river-crossing military exercise" in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniester and said its team was blocked from monitoring the maneuvers.
The OSCE said in a statement on August 15 that in accordance with a 1992 agreement designed to seek a settlement to the longstanding dispute, military exercises in the zone must be authorized by the Joint Control Commission (JCC) and the OSCE Mission, “which was not done in this instance."
"The OSCE Mission urges all parties involved in the fulfillment of the 1992 Agreement on Principles of a Peaceful Settlement to fully respect its provisions and the regime of the Security Zone, as well as the relevant JCC decisions and regulations," the OSCE statement said.
As part of the military maneuvers, armored personnel carriers and armored reconnaissance vehicles of the Operational Group of Russian Forces practiced crossing the Dniester River, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
The report said the forces "practiced U-turns, evading various obstacles such as sunken trees, reaching designated points on the opposite bank, and other maneuvers."
The Moldovan delegation to the JCC called the drills in the demilitarized Security Zone as "provocative actions."
The JCC, signed in 1992 by officials from Moldova, Russia, and Transdniester, is a multistate mission tasked with ensuring cease-fires and security arrangements in the security zone along the Dniester River.
In June, Moldova also expressed concern over what it called unauthorized movements by Russian military forces in the breakaway region. It said it notified the OSCE.
At the time, 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.
Transdneister is considered one of the many "frozen conflicts" in the former Soviet Union.
The mainly Russian-speaking region declared independence from Moldova in 1990 over fears that Chisinau would seek reunification with neighboring Romania.
Most of Moldova was part of Romania in the period between World War I and World War II.
Moldovan forces and Moscow-backed Transdniester fighters fought a short but bloody war in 1992.
The conflict ended with a cease-fire agreement after Russian troops in the region intervened on the side of the separatists.
Some 1,400 Russian troops remain in Transdniester guarding Soviet-era arms depots, and Moscow has resisted numerous calls over the years to withdraw its troops.
Transdniester's independence is recognized by no country, and the United Nations and OSCE, among others, have attempted to forge a resolution to the dispute.