NARRATIVES: 1. The West is interfering with the domestic affairs of the Republic of Moldova. 2. Maia Sandu and the political forces who support her want to impose an economic blockade on Transnistria. 3. Russia is keeping the peace in the region.
BACKGROUND: With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region of Transnistria in the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova proclaimed its independence, one of the main reasons invoked being “the threat of Romanianization” of the newly-founded Republic of Moldova. In 1992, an armed conflict broke out in the region, killing several hundred people on both sides, with experts claiming the Russian army deployed to the region of Transnistria had fought on the side of Tiraspol.
Although Russia has repeatedly reiterated its commitment to withdrawing its troops and ammunition from the region, a cache totaling over 20,000 tons of weapons and a large military unit still exist on the left bank of the Dniester. Russian troops operate as peacekeepers as part of an international mission set up in the wake of the armed conflict. Negotiations in the so-called “5+2” format created following 2005 barely make any headway, and neither side has yet tackled a political resolution to the conflict.
Chișinău wants the region to be granted a special status, while Tiraspol, in turn, insists on the international community recognizing its independence. All these years, the Russian Federation has been financially and politically supporting the breakaway region.
The Russian State Duma published the declaration as the campaign for the early parliamentary election in the Republic of Moldova is in full swing. Some messages echo the rhetoric of the main candidates, such as the Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists, the number one opponent of pro-European parties, which has a standing cooperation agreement with “Edinaya Rossiya” (United Russia) ruling party in Moscow.
In recent years, Transnistria has become a major election stake, considering that the local authorities have allowed citizens to vote in polling stations specially created for them by the Government in Chișinău. The voting process was the subject of controversy, given that voters were taken to polling stations in an organized manner and most of the votes cast favored the oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc. After he fled the country, voters in Transnistria then supported the Socialist president at the time, Igor Dodon. The current campaign has also brought to light a scandal regarding the number of polling stations in Transnistria.
PURPOSE: To depict Maia Sandu and her political allies (most notably PAS, a party founded by the incumbent president), but also Kiev authorities, as instigators of a possible escalation of the conflict in Transnistria. To create a climate of fear amongst voters with respect to the consequences of a victory of right-wing parties in the election. To delegitimize the West and Romania, Maia Sandu’s top external partners, and the upcoming partners of a possible PAS Cabinet. To rewrite history, by reinventing an oversized role for Russia in the regulation of the Transnistrian conflict and keeping the peace in the region.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: After Maia Sandu was elected president, Chișinău did not change its official position with regard to the peaceful resolution of the Transnistrian conflict.
On the very day the Russian State Duma accused Chișinău authorities of imposing a blockade on the region, the Government in Chișinău extended the terms of the simplified border crossing protocol on the Moldovan-Ukrainian border for economic operators from Transnistria, registered and unregistered. In addition, Moldova also extended the effects of a decree concerning the transportation of petrol products to Transnistria, which favors Tiraspol.
Russia is overplaying its role as peacekeeper, but in 2002, a former Speaker of the State Duma, Gennadiy Seleznyov, admitted to having started the conflict in 1992 in order to prevent the unification of Moldova with Romania. In 2012, a member of the Russian peacekeeping corps killed a young man at a security checkpoint.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: Chișinău and Kiev created several security checkpoints on the Transnistrian border, which attracted criticism from Tiraspol.
WHO STANDS TO BENEFIT: Moscow, Tiraspol, the Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists (BECS)
OFFICIAL REACTIONS: “Today, the State Duma adopted a declaration accusing the authorities in the Republic of Moldova of trying to isolate the region of Transnistria. Here are two examples that prove exactly the opposite. The authorities in the Republic of Moldova are making efforts to maintain dialogue and ensure the continuation of the process aimed at securing a long-term political resolution of the Transnistrian conflict”, interim Prime Minister Aureliu Ciocoi said after adopting the two government decrees whereby the authorities extended the effects of certain decisions that favored Tiraspol.
A project supported by the Canadian Embassy in Romania, Bulgaria, and the Republic of Moldova