in Moldova, the situation of Transnistria is concerned

The Moldovan Republic of the Dniester, recognized by no one but itself, could serve as a rear base for the Russian military in the Ukrainian conflict.

Transnistria has never been talked about so much. In recent months, this self-proclaimed independent state in eastern Moldova, effectively a predominantly Russian-speaking strip of land of just over 4,000 m² bordering the Ukrainian border, has made a sensational appearance on the international scene after its main football club, Sheriff Tiraspol , has qualified for the final phase of the Champions League.

More recently, on the sidelines of the war in Ukraine, the Moldavian Republic of Dniester (RMD), as its official name would have been, is once again being talked about, despite the fact that its existence is not recognized by any member of the UN . about. † Located just a few kilometers from the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, Transnistria, which has never hidden its desire to join the bosom of Moscow, is arousing the concern of the Moldovan authorities.

Russian back base

As the Russian army, despite resistance from the Ukrainian army, continues its advance towards the West, many Moldovans believe it is the will of the Russians to join Transnistria, which would currently serve as a back base for Moscow for an hour. 1500 Russian soldiers would be there. “If Odessa falls, it is certain that the Russians will connect with their army of Transnistria,” recently estimated in the columns of West FranceAleksander, a Moldovan computer scientist in his thirties.

Vitalle Marinuta, who lives near the military-guarded border, is met by BFMTV and indicates that the current situation is of great concern to the local population. “There are about 2,000 armed separatists there, trained and trained by the Russians for special operations. We can speak of a force that could become hostile. The inhabitants are starting to stock up and make provisions. Of course people are worried.” , he said. †

"We are not Moldovans"a poster referring to the Dniester War in the streets of Tiraspol
“We are not Moldovans”, a poster referring to the Dniester war on the streets of Tiraspol © VADIM DENISOV / AFP

It must be said that in the collective imagination of Moldova, Transnistria remains a scar that is difficult to close. In March 1992, a few months after the dissolution of the USSR, the Dniester War began, pitting the Transnistrian army against the Moldovan forces after Transnistria unilaterally declared its independence. “Very often the grenades flew over the village and went up to 300 kilometers from here,” recalls Vitalle, a veteran of this conflict, for whom this return to the past bodes ill.

On July 21 of the same year, after fighting that left nearly 2,000 dead on the Moldavian side, a ceasefire was finally signed between the two sides and the border of the secessionist region, which occupied the route of the Dniester River, froze.

A region frozen in the Soviet era and under Russian infusion

The situation in Transnistria is therefore paradoxical. The region has all the characteristics of a country, but is not recognized by anyone but itself. After thirty years, the young republic has a president, Vadim Krasnoselsky, a prime minister, Aleksandr Martinov, a parliament, the Supreme Court, a capital, Tiraspol, but also a currency, the Transnistrian ruble, some parts of which are made of plastic, or even a font.

The coat of arms of Transnistria - illustrative image
The coat of arms of Transnistria – Illustrative image © DANIEL MIHAILESCU / AFP

Another detail, Transnistria lives in nostalgia for the Soviet Union, as evidenced by the hammer and sickle that still adorn its flag and coat of arms, as well as the many statues of Lenin that still stand on its territory.

In reality, Transnistria owes its survival only to Russia, which, however, does not acknowledge its existence either, at least not officially. The country’s main conglomerate, Sheriff, is a sprawling and obscure group led with an iron fist by Viktor Gushan, a former Russian intelligence officer. The group is ubiquitous in the daily life of the country, its logo, a Sheriff’s star, adorns all gas stations and supermarkets in the country, and the group is omnipotent in the fields of energy, alcohol, steel and hobbies. It’s simple, Sheriff checks everything.

“Victor Gushan is the person with the most influence here, in the political and economic world”, entrusted to the independent Anatoli Diroun, director of the Tiraspol School of Political Studies. Today, Sheriff exports textile and steel products throughout Europe, as well as caviar to the United States and Japan.

A Sheriff Group supermarket - illustrative image
A Sheriff Group supermarket – Illustrative image © Sergei GAPON / AFP

divorce completed

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has the effect of accelerating the Moldovan-Transnistrian divorce. Like Ukraine, Moldova is neither a member of NATO nor of the European Union. On March 3, President Maia Sandu officially signed her application to accede to the European agreement to guard against a possible advance by the Russian army.

As indicated International mailThis decision was immediately followed on March 4 by a Transistrean counter-attack, sending a request to the UN and the OSCE for recognition of independence “after Chisinau’s decision to entrust the sovereignty of Moldova to supranational bodies in Brussels. †

“Considering the circumstances, we invite the Moldovan authorities to enter into a dialogue with the RMD to settle the issue of our relations definitively and in a civilized manner, on the basis of peaceful coexistence between two independent states and through a global interstate agreement,” the Transnistrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published.

A rapprochement with Moscow that could further facilitate the exodus of the youngest population of the region. This is due to low incomes, an average of 200 to 300 dollars (170 to 260 euros) per month, less than in Moldova, which is the poorest country in Europe. In 30 years, the population has halved from 500,000 to 250,000 people.