Moldovan breakaway region seeks Russia's help amid escalating tensions with pro-Western government

Alexander Korshunov, Chairman of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic's Supreme Council, addressing delegates during a session in the Transnistrian capital, Tiraspol.
Alexander Korshunov, Chairman of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic's Supreme Council, addressing delegates during a session in the Transnistrian capital, Tiraspol. Copyright Supreme Council of the PMR telegram channel via AP
By Euronews with AP
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Transnistria is one of numerous European regions where Moscow claims ethnic Russians are under threat.

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Officials in Moldova's breakaway region of Transnistria appealed to Moscow for protection on Wednesday, as tensions escalate with the country's pro-Western government.

On Wednesday, members of the Transnistrian congress used a rare meeting in the regional capital, Tiraspol, to ask the Russian Duma to "implement measures for defending Transnistria amid increasing pressure from Moldova, given the fact that more than 220,000 Russian citizens reside in Transnistria."

The dispute began at the start of the year when Moldova, officially a candidate to join the EU, imposed new customs duties on 1 January on imports and exports to and from Transnistria. The region borders Ukraine and is not recognised as a separate entity by any United Nations member countries, including Russia, which maintains close ties to the region.

Moldova is working to align its economic legislation with the EU as it pursues full membership in the bloc. But the new customs duties levelled on Transnistria have angered officials in the region, who say the measures harm local residents and businesses.

In a declaration readout on Wednesday, officials in Tiraspol also appealed to the European Parliament to prevent what it described as pressure from Moldova from "violating the rights and freedoms" of local residents. They made similar appeals to the secretary-general of the United Nations; the European Parliament; and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Ahead of Wednesday's meeting, tensions mounted after an opposition legislator in Tiraspol last week said the gathering could used to announce a bid by Transnistria to join Russia.

A spokesperson for Moldova's government dismissed those claims and labeled the meeting a "propaganda event," adding that there was "no danger of escalation."

Alexander Korshunov, Chairman of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic's Supreme Council, addresses an audience in Transnistria.
Alexander Korshunov, Chairman of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic's Supreme Council, addresses an audience in Transnistria.AP/AP

Alexander Korshunov, chairman of the Transnistrian Supreme Council, said on Wednesday that Moldova was "taking advantage of the geopolitical situation" and using the economy "as a tool of pressure and blackmail."

He added: "Moldova's policy and goals regarding Transnistria have remained unchanged over the past decades: to destroy our economic potential, create unbearable living conditions for our citizens … and achieve the dismantling of our statehood."

Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, also commented on those annexation speculations on Wednesday.

"For several days now, people in Chisinau have been speculating and wondering what decisions this forum might make," she said. "Well, apparently, the same panic gripped NATO."

Life on the edge

Transnistria, which has a population of about 470,000, is a thin strip of territory located between the eastern bank of the Dniester River and Moldova's border with Ukraine. The unrecognised state, officially named the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, has its own currency and flag.

A short war in the early 1990s led pro-Russian forces in Transnistria to declare a breakaway state. A 2006 referendum saw more than 95% of voters back the option of joining Russia but the ballot wasn't internationally recognized. The US State Department at the time called it a "provocative referendum" that "cannot be taken seriously."

To this day, Russia stations about 1,500 troops in the region as so-called peacekeepers; they are tasked with guarding huge Soviet-era weapons and ammunition stockpiles.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Moldova's pro-Western leaders have routinely accused Moscow of conducting campaigns to try to destabilise the country, which was a Soviet republic until 1991.

Moldova was granted EU candidate status in 2022. It was further buoyed in December last year when Brussels said it would open accession negotiations for both Moldova and neighbouring Ukraine.

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