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Tensions Grow at Moldova-Transnistria Security Zone

Tensions increased during the night of April 26-27 in the Security Zone of the Republic of Moldova, according to Moldovan media reports. The Security Zone was set up at the end of the Transnistrian war (March-July 1992), a conflict that aimed to put an end to the separatist movements in Moldova’s Eastern part and regain the breakaway republic of Transnistria.

Last week, the Transnistrian authorities unilaterally installed two checkpoints between the village of Varniţa (a commune that remains controlled by the Moldovan government) and the city of Bender (controlled by the separatist authorities of Transnistria). This led to clashes between Moldovan civilians, who tried to remove the checkpoints, and the Transnistrian militia, who intervened to stop them. The conflict was brought to an end a few hours later, by the Unified Control Commission, a joint mechanism established to monitor, among other things, the Security Zone. While Transnistria claimed that the new checkpoints were aimed at combatting smuggling, the reactions from the Moldovan netizens highlight some of the reasons why the tensions arose.

Breakaway Transnistria, Wikimedia Commons

A map of Moldova and the breakaway region of Transnistria, Wikimedia Commons

Dragoș Galbur believes this was an attempt at occupation. He writes [ro]:

I could not sleep until 4 am, following live what was happening in Varnița, where several Russian soldiers and Transnistrian militians attacked the territory of the Republic of Moldova. And when I say ‘attacked', I know what I am saying. You cannot come in military uniforms to a land that does not belong to you, (according to the Moscow peace treaty) and start hitting the people from Varnița, installing your wagons under the pretext that you are establishing a checkpoint there. This is called occupation!

Galbur is disappointed by the reactions of the Moldovan officials:

Besides Facebook, in [Chișinău, the capital of Moldova] it was very quiet. Not a single reaction, nothing. No one was picking up the phone. If there had been a shooting by a careless participant, for sure the scenario from 1992 would have repeated itself. But who cares? In Chișinău, there is a big fight, for money and power.

The blogger refers to the deep political crisis affecting Moldova. After losing its government earlier this year, last week Moldovans watched the speaker of the parliament being dismissed.

A recent opinion poll from Moldova (April 2013) uncovers that 81 percent of the surveyed population believe that the country is not governed by the will of the people and 84 percent affirm that the country is heading into the wrong direction; 82 percent of the respondents are also not happy with how the country's ruling administration is dealing with the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict.

The same dissatisfaction is voiced by journalist and blogger Andrei Cibotaru, who thinks that the Alliance for European Integration (AIE) deserves to be called the Alliance for the Eternal Intermission, because of the constant power struggle, which left Moldova without a president for nearly two years, then without a prime minister, and now also without a speaker of the Parliament.

Cibotaru writes [ro]:

Meanwhile, they [AIE] they are intimidating us with the anticipated elections. They keep saying that if the elections come, we will not win, but the communists will. But why should we (and not them!) be scared of that?

The political comeback of the Communist Party might as well be a realistic scenario.

Asked who they would vote for should there be parliamentary elections next Sunday, 32.5 percent of the respondents in the April opinion poll chose the Communist Party, as opposed to the current ruling parties, which gained respectively: 12.6 percent (the Liberal Democratic Party), 10.5% (the Liberal Party) and 6.8% (the Democratic Party).

Journalist and blogger Vitalie Cojocari writes [ro] that “Transnistria is lost forever for Moldova”:

[...] Only a stupid person cannot see this. Transnistria exists as an independent state and does not need the recognition of the entire world, as long as its world is Mother Russia. Transnistria does not represent Moldova and only the naives from the Chișinău-based NGOs still consider the territory across [the Nistru] to belong to the Moldovans. It cannot be otherwise. Twenty years after the war, in Transnistria a new generation was born. This generation has grown and for them it is evident that there exists Moldova, there exists Transnistria and these two entities are completely different states.

Cojocari suggests there are two solutions for Transnistria – one is simple and rapid, and the other one tough and protracted:

The difficult one entails getting the Transnistrians to want to unite with the Moldovans. For this, however, the Moldovan economy needs to be booming, people need to have everything, and life should be a small paradise. Dear theoreticians of coffee-breaks, you will not convince the people on the left bank of the Nistru to unite with the right bank if you don't offer them an alternative. What could we give them? Poverty? Bad roads? The easy solution is to give up Transnistria. It is only in our way. We have a goal. We have to be part of the European Union. With them [Transnistria], we will not be able to do it, without them – yes. I only feel sorry about one thing. These poor people from Varniţa and other villages, forgotten by the authorities from Chişinău.

Meanwhile, popular support for the European Integration of Moldova has decreased in the past few years. This year's opinion poll shows that citizens views and support are equally split regarding integration with the European Union (51 percent) and a Russian Union (52 percent).

In a blogpost entitled ‘Russian Army go home,’ blogger Nicu Gușan is convinced that the only hope lies not in the ruling political class, but in Moldova's citizens:

The Russian military will not take even a single piece of this already crippled republic! This time, despite the impotence of our authorities, we will not allow for another part of our territory to be taken under Russian occupation. Today's citizens will stay on guard just like they stayed in 1992 and thanks to whom this republic has not been entirely occupied.

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