Editorials

Moscow is accelerating the process of granting Russian citizenship in the Transnistrian separatist region

The coat of arms of the territory and a monument of Lenin in Tiraspol, the capital of Moldova’s breakaway Transnistrian province, the self-proclaimed Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, on 07 June 2013.
© EPA/Zsolt Czegledi   |   The coat of arms of the territory and a monument of Lenin in Tiraspol, the capital of Moldova’s breakaway Transnistrian province, the self-proclaimed Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, on 07 June 2013.

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In mid-February this year, an emissary from Moscow arrived in Chisinau. Andrei Rudenko is the Deputy Foreign Minister, and his visit to Moldova should have been devoted to the many issues on the bilateral agenda, such as gas supplies, Russia's embargo on Moldovan products, or the situation of Moldovan carriers in Russia. However, two other issues were in the spotlight.

First, Rudenko directly informed Chisinau about Moscow's demands for US and NATO security guarantees, no access to NATO for Ukraine and the withdrawal of the Allied forces from the countries that became members after 1997. Then in Tiraspol, on February 16, the same Rudenko announced that Moscow was accelerating the process of granting Russian citizenship in Transnistria. Russia will do this by upsizing the staff at the mobile consular post opened at the Russian MFA in Tiraspol, which operates without the consent of the Moldovan authorities.

The Russian official justified the decision by saying that the Russian initiative would respond to the “growing” demand of the inhabitants of the region regarding the completion of Russian identity documents.

“We will do everything possible in the near future to resolve the growing queue [to apply for Russian documents]. Additional employees will deal with the workload caused by the COVID-19 pandemic”, Andrei Rudenko said.

As confirmed by the separatist leader Vadim Krasnoselsky, after Rudenko's announcement, Russia was quick to offer more than 220,000 Russian citizenships. Krasnoselsky added that there was currently a queue of 14,000 Transnistrians waiting for their passports or other documents from Russia. And that in the context in which, de facto, the region has a population of under 300,000 people.

Diplomatic blunder

The political analyst and director of “Viitorul” IDSII in Chisinau, Igor Munteanu, told Veridica.ro that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration (MFAEI) in Chisinau is primarily responsible for the situation, because it should not have encouraged such high-level visits.

“The MFAEI accepted the visit, expecting that the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko would decide on the intergovernmental meeting that Moldova now needs, as we currently have multiple unresolved issues related to railway transportation, trading activities blocked because of some authorizations needed by carriers. We have trade problems because certain Moldovan products are not accepted on the Russian market, etc. “, he stated.

Igor Munteanu specified that the Russian side exploited these vulnerabilities that the Republic of Moldova had in order to achieve its own objectives in the relationship with Chisinau and Tiraspol.

“What we mean is maintaining control over security measures in the secessionist region. Chisinau blundered because it allowed the Russian official to arrive in Tiraspol though it had no interest in supporting or facilitating such a visit to Tiraspol. MFAEI's main dissatisfaction was with Moscow's promise to strengthen the consular presence”, he also said.

Granting citizenship, a tool used by Moscow in separatist republics in Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova

In the very near future, Russia could offer Russian passports to all residents of the Transnistrian separatist region, which it has de facto controlled for 30 years.

The fact that the Moscow authorities are currently seeking to strengthen their legal presence through the accelerated issuance of passports in Transnistria should be an alarm signal for Chisinau, all the more so as we are talking about a formula initially used by Moscow to strengthen, then to maintain its presence in the separatist regions of Georgia and Ukraine, regions in which it has already taken the next step - the recognition of independence. As the number of Russian citizens in such separatist enclaves grows, so will Russia use more motives to claim it’s protecting its own citizens.

According to Russia's domestic law, the Russian military can intervene even abroad to ensure the protection of its own citizens, and this, according to Moscow, provides the legal basis for intervention in such small separatist regions.

“This issue [of offering Russian passports in Transnistria] has been a matter of dispute for over 10-15 years between the Republic of Moldova and the Russian Federation, which calls on Moscow to suspend its consular activities. That means a quasi-recognition of Tiraspol. And the embassy of the Russian Federation does not find it appropriate to comply with Chisinau’s requirements, camouflaging instead its consular presence in Tiraspol with a format that combines the existence of permanently appointed diplomats with an institution that facilitates the granting of Russian citizenship to the people across the Dniester who want it”, Igor Munteanu told Veridica.ro.

He also said that the Republic of Moldova is vulnerable due to the lack of a concise strategy and a unitary vision of how to manage the relationship with Tiraspol.

Munteanu gave as an example the “policy of small steps” applied in recent years, which largely entails  a series of economic concessions on Chisinau’s part,  which would do nothing but benefit economic groups such as the Sheriff holding, owned by the oligarchs Viktor Gushan and Ilia Kazmalyi.

Russian peacekeepers, a Russian outpost in the side of the West

On the other hand, Chisinau is trying to convince Russia of the need to destroy the ammunition in Cobasna, but also to withdraw its troops from Transnistria.

“Another issue we have insisted on in recent weeks is the withdrawal of the illegally deployed military troops on the territory of the Republic of Moldova”, the Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu said after a meeting with Andrei Rudenko in Chisinau.

It is clear, however, that Russia has no plans to withdraw any troops from Moldova. Moscow insists on the need for the presence of Russian peacekeepers on the Dniester line. In a speech in Tiraspol on February 16, Rudenko acknowledged the de facto role of the Russian military in the Republic of Moldova, namely to be a military outpost in the region close to the EU and NATO.

“We have seen the role that this operation is playing in maintaining peace and security on both banks of the Dniester. This is especially important in these troubled times. You can see for yourself the processes that are taking place both around Russia and in Moscow's relations with the West”, Andrei Rudenko said in Tiraspol.

At the same time, the Tiraspol separatist leader Vadim Krasnoselsky was keen on explaining, after last Monday’s video message  in which president Maia Sandu made an appeal for peace, that the peace she invoked would mean something else. “Peace is not only when the guns are not firing, but also when there are no restrictions or blockades, when Transnistrians’ rights are not violated, when the commitments are met”, Krasnoselsky told a joint conference with Andrei Rudenko  on February 16 in Tiraspol.

Moreover, the peacekeeping troops in their current format only strengthen the position of the Tiraspol regime and operate de facto, together with the Operational Group of Russian Forces (OGRF) guarding the Cobasna ammunition depot, as a “Praetorian Guard” for the secessionist power in Tiraspol.

What is clear from Rudenko's last visit is that Russia continues to intervene whenever and how it wants in the Republic of Moldova and to play the same double role - as a state that de facto controls Transnistria, but also as a façade mediator in this case.

Chisinau welcomes them despite the hostile moves and constant defiance it has suffered over Russia's interests in Transnistria.

It has become clear in recent years that Russia cannot be a political or economic dialogue partner of the Republic of Moldova, but Chisinau keeps going easy on its relations with Moscow and not taking a stand on the unilateral Russian maneuvers that the Kremlin is carrying out in Transnistria over Chisinau's head as if the latter didn't even exist. At discourse level, Russia claims to hear Chisinau’s objections, but in practice does everything it wishes, put its own interests above the domestic law of the Republic of Moldova or the agreements signed on the Transnistrian case.

 

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5 minutes read
  • Rudenko announced that Moscow was accelerating the process of granting Russian citizenship in Transnistria. Russia will do this by upsizing the staff at the mobile consular post opened at the Russian MFA in Tiraspol, which operates without the consent of the Moldovan authorities. As confirmed by the separatist leader Vadim Krasnoselsky, after Rudenko's announcement, Russia was quick to offer more than 220,000 Russian citizenships. Krasnoselsky added that there was currently a queue of 14,000 Transnistrians waiting for their passports or other documents from Russia. And that in the context in which, de facto, the region has a population of under 300,000 people.
  • In the very near future, Russia could offer Russian passports to all residents of the Transnistrian separatist region, which it has de facto controlled for 30 years. The fact that the Moscow authorities are currently seeking to strengthen their legal presence through the accelerated issuance of passports in Transnistria should be an alarm signal for Chisinau, all the more so as we are talking about a formula initially used by Moscow to strengthen, then to maintain its presence in the separatist regions of Georgia and Ukraine, regions in which it has already taken the next step - the recognition of independence.
  • Chisinau is trying to convince Russia of the need to destroy the ammunition in Cobasna, but also to withdraw its troops from Transnistria. It is clear, however, that Russia has no plans to withdraw any troops from Moldova. Moscow insists on the need for the presence of Russian peacekeepers on the Dniester line. In a speech in Tiraspol on February 16, Rudenko acknowledged the de facto role of the Russian military in the Republic of Moldova, namely to be a military outpost in the region close to the EU and NATO.
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