Transnistria is categorically against withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from the region, President of the unrecognized republic of Transnistria Yevgeny Shevchuk told TASS on Monday, commenting on media reports that Moldova and Ukraine are looking at drafting, by the end of the year, a joint plan of withdrawal of Russian servicemen and weapons from Transnistria.
“The Russian group of forces which is playing a key role in the peacekeeping operation on the Dniester banks is a unique example of a peacekeeping mission, which fact is recognized by many experts worldwide. This operation is a guarantee of peace and stability in Transnistria,” he said, adding that people living in the republic value this contribution.
“In 1992, the Russian military stopped bloodshed on the Dniester banks, which killed more than 1,000 of people. Tens of thousands were wounded and had to flee their homes. We think that until a final political solution to the conflict is reached, there is no sense in withdrawing the Russian group of forces because it may aggravate the situation and trigger more bloodshed,” Shevchuk said.
He said he doesn’t share initiatives of a number of Moldovan politicians to replace Russian peacekeepers by civil observers, to “unfreeze” the conflict and even involve NATO forces into its settlement.
The Transnistrian leader reminded that the idea of a civil observer mission on the Dniester banks had once been realized. “Such an initiative was implemented back in 1992 but members of that mission fled Bender a couple of hours before shooting began. Many documents that have been agreed in the negotiating process envisage synchronization of withdrawal of peacekeepers from the conflict zone with ultimate comprehensive peace settlement. And Moldova is bound by these liabilities. We think that this yet another outburst of anti-peacekeeping rhetoric is inadmissible and unconstructive,” he stressed.
Transnistria, a largely Russian-speaking region, broke away from Moldova following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Its relations with Moldova’s central government in Chisinau have been highly mixed and extremely tense at times ever since then. In 1992 and 1993, tensions erupted into a bloody armed conflict that claimed the lives of hundreds of people on both sides.
For the moment, a joint peacekeeping force of the 402 Russian peacekeepers, 492 Transnistrian and 355 Moldovan servicemen, as well as a group of ten military observers from Ukraine are maintaining peace and stability in the buffer security zone of the Transnistrian conflict. Notably, no outbreaks of violence have been reported from that area after the deployment of Russian peacekeepers, which makes it possible for Chisinau and Tiraspol continue peace settlement talks.