The foreign minister of Transnistria has said that the separatist region is committed to achieving independence from Moldova and possible unification with Russia, and that Moldova's recent EU candidacy status effectively ends any possibility of cooperation.
Transnistria, a sliver of land lying between Ukraine and the rest of Moldova, has hosted a contingent of Russian peacekeeping forces since the end of a separatist war in 1992. After Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February, speculation has risen that Moscow would aim to take control of the territory.
In April, a series of explosions in the territory, which has roughly 470,000 inhabitants, caused tensions to soar.
Vitaly Ignatyev, the unrecognised government's foreign minister, told a news conference in Moscow that Transnistria will pursue the goals determined in a 2006 referendum, which saw almost 100% of voters back independence from Moldova and potential Russian integration. The referendum was widely seen as illegitimate by the international community.
“The subsequent free accession to Russia is a process that probably requires significant decisions, political preparation and much more,” Ignatyev said. “ The main priority, obviously, is independence.”
Moldova is constitutionally neutral and thus not a potential NATO member, but is showing a growing Western orientation. In June, the EU granted it candidate status alongside Ukraine, with full bloc membership conditional on reforms such as tackling corruption and strengthening rule of law.
“Having received the status of a candidate for EU membership, Moldova has thus crossed a certain Rubicon," Ignatyev said. “It put an end to the issue of building political relations within certain common spaces, because this decision was made solely by the Moldovan leadership, it was not taken collectively. Moreover, no one can speak for us.”