Sep 2, 2021
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Kiev declares war on Moscow in Transnistria

Kiev declares war on Moscow in Transnistria

Photo: Gavriil Grigorov / TASS

Cars with Pridnestrovian license plates are prohibited from entering Ukraine from September 1, the State Border Service of Ukraine said.

“In accordance with the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers and the note of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, from September 1, only vehicles from the Transnistrian region of Moldova with so-called neutral numbers registered in accordance with the legislation of Moldova will be allowed to participate in international traffic.”, – the message says.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that the Ukrainian authorities have helped Moldova in blocking the PMR. What’s next? Will they take tougher measures, and how will Russia respond?

– In mid-August, the first deputy head of the Russian presidential administration came to Moldova Dmitry Kozak… He held talks with the president Maya Sandu and expressed deep satisfaction with their results, – reminds Deputy of the Moldovan Parliament from the Bloc of Communists and Socialists Constantin Starish. – In particular, he was optimistic that Sandu had promised him not to blockade Transnistria. Exactly one week later, Mrs. Sandu visited the Crimean Platform, joining all the resolutions adopted at this forum, which is considered anti-Russian in Moscow.

On August 27, Zelenskiy visited Chisinau in connection with the 30th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Moldova. And immediately after that, Ukraine announced that it would not allow cars with Transnistrian registration numbers to enter its territory. Interestingly, this was preceded by an appeal from the Moldovan Foreign Ministry, which asked the Ukrainian side to postpone this measure for four months. But Kiev showed “adherence to principles.”

The classic game of good and bad cop.

While promising Kozak not to blockade Transnistria, Sandu did not risk anything. Chisinau cannot block anything: all the Transnistrian enterprises have long been registered in the official bodies of the Republic of Moldova, they produce products under the brand name “Made in Moldova”. So, Chisinau does not have any mechanisms for blocking the region. It can only block the access of residents of Transnistria to the right bank of the Dniester. But this is more dear to itself.

But Ukraine has a lot of opportunities to organize a blockade. Transnistrian exports, as well as imports, are “Ukrainian-dependent”. Not a single normal person will believe that Kiev does not stipulate and reconcile tough anti-Transnistrian measures with Chisinau. As members of the “associated trio,” Ukraine and Moldova are undoubtedly coordinating their steps. It’s just that Sandu, in order not to irritate a serious part of the Moldovan society, has to “flirt” with Moscow a little more. She promised Kozak not to block Pridnestrovie, she is not blocking it either. And here Zelensky promised nothing to Kozak … Geopolitical thimblers.

– This is one of the ways to exert pressure on Tiraspol, and it was initiated back in 2018, during the years of government Poroshenko and Plahotniuc, – is talking executive director of the Moldavian branch of the Izborsk club Vladimir Bukarsky. – Since then, the leadership of both countries has changed, but their geopolitical guidelines and objectives have not changed. And this is only the first step in a series of acts of pressure on Transnistria.

“SP”: Why now? Zelensky decided to play along with Sanda?

– No, we decided not to play along with Sandu, but our international curators. Sandu, after her scandalous speech on the “Crimean Platform” and the Russophobic Sabbath in Chisinau during the celebration of “Moldova’s Independence Day”, now does not need an unnecessary aggravation with Moscow and Tiraspol. She, with the help of her emissary, Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Vlada Kulminsky tried to sort out and defuse the situation, but Kiev was adamant. “Homework” from foreign curators must be done.

“SP”: How does this threaten the residents of the PMR? How will it work in practice? How will people get out?

– As long as people will continue to drive as they did. Many have already changed their numbers to neutral and the “MD” badge. Someone is in the process. Most of all, Transnistrian transport carriers will suffer, carrying out passenger flights to Odessa and other cities of Ukraine. From that day on, buses with Transnistrian numbers are not allowed to enter Ukraine. People are unloaded at the border checkpoint, they cross the border on foot (and this is a fairly long distance for walking with bags, more than 500 meters).

“SP”: Moldova for the first time banned cars with Transnistrian numbers from crossing the border with Ukraine in early 2020. In response, the Transnistrian authorities promised to ban vehicles with Moldovan numbers from crossing the Transnistrian section of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. After that, Moldova lifted the ban. Tiraspol’s response may be critical?

– Now the Moldovan side, so that Tiraspol does not introduce retaliatory measures, prefers to get out: “We have nothing to do with it, it’s all Ukraine, we asked them to postpone the introduction of these norms, Kiev refused”

“SP”: Ukraine is constantly putting up some kind of obstacles to Transnistria, either strengthening or weakening the blockade. But it does not go to really tough measures such as a complete closure of the border. Why? Is there a danger that Kiev will seriously decide to strangle Transnistria?

– There are hawks both in Kiev and in Chisinau, who offer tougher measures of pressure on Transnistria with a complete economic blockade. But the leaderships of Ukraine and Moldova, and especially their Western curators, do not want to give extra trump cards into the hands of Russia. It is clear that Moscow will not tolerate a complete blockade of Transnistria and a humanitarian catastrophe in this region.

– The level of trust between Chisinau and Kiev is now so high that it is quite possible to suspect a behind-the-scenes agreement between Sandu and Zelensky, – believes Igor Shornikov, director of the Transnistrian Institute of Socio-Political Research and Regional Development… – Sandu promised Kozak that there would be no blockade from September 1. She complied with the formalities, an official appeal was sent to Kiev with a request to postpone restrictive measures against Transnistrian vehicles to the beginning of 2022. But Ukraine decided to take responsibility. Accordingly, Chisinau can now calmly address all questions from Moscow to Ukraine.

What is Kiev trying to achieve? Concessions on the part of Moscow on other issues, or maybe this is one of the elements of preparation for Zelensky’s visit to the United States? Hard to say.

Most likely, the ban will remain in force, and Tiraspol, with the help of negotiators, will have to look for some ways to minimize losses by optimizing the conditions of Chisinau for itself: for example, to achieve recognition of Pridnestrovian driver’s licenses. Now neutral numbers are useless if the driver is not a holder of a Moldovan license.

Now we can talk about the first stage of the transport blockade of Transnistria. Then other steps may follow: restrictions on the passage of Pridnestrovian officials through the Chisinau airport; termination from January 1, 2022 of the protocol “On the principles of the resumption of full-fledged freight railway communication through the territory of Transnistria.” Moreover, subsequent steps will most likely be accompanied by “diplomatic” demands from Tiraspol.

The new leadership of Moldova, as well as Kiev, is quite capable of going to the blockade of Transnistria. The international environment favors this.

“SP”: What will Russia do in the event of a complete blockade of Transnistria? To cut through the corridor by force?

– First of all, you need support at the diplomatic level. Tiraspol has now called for a permanent meeting in the 5 + 2 format. Within the framework of this format, it is quite possible to reach certain compromise solutions that will ease the situation, even if Kiev leaves everything as it is.

In the event of a complete blockade of Transnistria, for example, such as it was in 2006, Russia has the opportunity to help without resorting to force. Thus, in 2006 Russia actually assumed all the social obligations of the Transnistrian budget. As a result, for the majority of Pridnestrovians, the blockade went relatively well in material terms. And Russia eventually gained political benefits in the region – the Pridnestrovians organized a referendum on joining Russia.

“SP”: How will the current ban affect the life of Pridnestrovians?

– For a while, he will not allow small business, tied to work with the Odessa region, to carry out their activities. This may affect up to 8,000 – 10,000 entrepreneurs and economic agents. They will have to look for workarounds: produce neutral plates, try to find ways to obtain Moldovan license or switch to cars with Moldovan or Ukrainian plates. And it will take both time and money. Many families will suffer material damage.

Those Pridnestrovians who are accustomed to travel to the sea on vacation in their own vehicles will also suffer. Moreover, passenger traffic with Odessa is already difficult.

Let’s hope that the crisis will be resolved by diplomatic measures in the near future. However, in my opinion, it will be extremely difficult to return to the previous regime. At best, Tiraspol will be able to get some concessions from Chisinau in terms of simplifying the procedure for issuing neutral numbers and recognizing Pridnestrovian driver’s licenses for traveling abroad.

– Ukraine has long been demonstrating its readiness to participate in the economic blockade of Transnistria, – considers Associate Professor of the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation Gevorg Mirzayan… – And has long been working hand in hand with the Moldovan authorities in this matter. Therefore, there is nothing strange in the fact that the Ukrainian side is also working here with the Moldovan one. They are essentially allies in the fight against the pro-Russian Transnistria. And allied relations only strengthened after the Maidan in Ukraine.

Kiev is seriously interested in strangling Transnistria. First, because this is a pro-Russian territory. Much more pro-Russian than a number of regions of Ukraine. Secondly, it is the perfect place to strike back. Zelensky cannot attack Crimea, he cannot attack Donbass, but he can respond to Russia with a blow to Transnistria. Third, this is Russia’s Achilles heel. Moscow cannot send troops to help Transnistria without invading a hostile country. Transnistria is surrounded by Moldova and Ukraine. Moldova itself is surrounded by the territory of Ukraine and Romania. Therefore, in order to enter troops, Russia must either invade Romania, which is a NATO member country, or invade Ukraine.

“SP”: – How will this blockade affect the Pridnestrovians?

– If we are talking only about numbers, then there is no problem to re-register. Get second numbers. If this decision is a prologue for further tightening the nuts, there may already be more serious problems.

“SP”: – What kind?

– Complete border closure and economic blockade. Military provocations on the border with Transnistria, ostensibly to fight smugglers. In the end, a military invasion in agreement with the Moldovan authorities to fight against the same smugglers.

“SP”: – Can Russia somehow help Transnistria in the event of a radical tightening of the blockade? Are there such tools?

– Russia can exert the most severe economic pressure, but it may not help. Therefore, Moscow is likely to have only one option – a military invasion of Ukraine. This option brings a number of opportunities for Moscow, but at the same time there are many more risks and problems. This is understood in Ukraine, so they are trying in every possible way to provoke a Russian military invasion. In fact, this invasion is the only chance for the survival of the current Ukrainian regime.

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