Moldova’s conflict over the Russian-backed breakaway region of Transnistria, which seeks to join Russia, has been frozen since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Meanwhile, the country’s momentum for greater integration with the EU has been undermined by continuing corruption and the election of pro-Russia president Igor Dodon. Crisis Group monitors developments related to the Transnistrian conflict, Russia’s increasing involvement in Moldovan politics and the fallout of conflict in eastern Ukraine. As we engage Moldovan officials and policymakers in Brussels, we produce analysis and recommendations to contain the risk of escalation and further the resolution of Moldova’s separatist conflict.
Amid ongoing opposition-led protests, U.S. imposed sanctions targeting Russian “influence operations”; tensions ran high with Russia amid airspace violation and gas supply worries.
Opposition-led protests prompted U.S. sanctions targeting Kremlin. Protests that began in Sept denouncing high inflation and fuel prices and demanding resignation of President Maia Sandu and pro-EU govt continued throughout month in capital Chisinau. Notably, estimated 7,000 protesters 23 Oct marched through capital and created new tent camp, removed 10 Oct by police. Members of opposition Shor Party, who maintain links to Russia, have been main organisers behind demonstrations, hinting at Kremlin’s role in protests to destabilise country. Amid growing concerns, U.S. 26 Oct imposed sanctions on over 20 individuals and entities to counter Russia’s “persistent malign influence campaigns and systemic corruption in Moldova”.
Authorities accused Moscow of violating country’s airspace. Deputy PM Nicu Popescu 10 Oct announced that three missiles launched on Ukraine from Russian ships in Black Sea crossed Moldova’s airspace; Russia offered no official explanation for incident. Meanwhile, govt 7 Oct extended state of emergency imposed in Feb following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by 60 days.
Concerns grew over Russian gas supplies. Amid soaring gas prices in wake of Ukraine war, Russian gas supplier Gazprom – which Moldova relies almost entirely on for gas – 4 Oct threatened to cut gas supplies if country failed to comply with its payment obligations by 20 Oct; one lawmaker said move was “another element of soft blackmailing Moldova for its European course”. Govt 20 Oct said Gazprom refused to tell Chisinau how much gas it would provide in Nov, citing supply issues due to Ukraine, further straining relations.
The threat of coronavirus looms large in six self-declared republics that have broken away from post-Soviet states. War and isolation have corroded health care infrastructure, while obstructing the inflow of assistance. International actors should work with local and regional leaders to let life-saving aid through.
Unresolved conflicts and breakaway territories divide five out of six of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership countries, most of them directly backed by the Russian Federation. But a policy of isolating the people living in these conflict regions narrows the road to peace.
With Romania’s expected entry into the European Union in 2007, the EU will share a border with Moldova, a weak state divided by conflict and plagued by corruption and organised crime. Moldova’s leadership has declared its desire to join the EU, but its commitment to European values is suspect, and efforts to resolve its dispute with the breakaway region of Transdniestria have failed to end a damaging stalemate that has persisted for fifteen years.
Resolving the Trandniestrian secessionist dispute in Moldova is vital to remove a potential source of chaos on the periphery of the expanding European Union, to implement an important part of the post-Cold War settlement, and to make Moldova itself a more viable state.
The conflict in the Transdniestrian region of the Republic of Moldova is not as charged with ethnic hatred and ancient grievances as others in the area of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and it is more conducive to a sustainable settlement.
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