Moldova’s Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman has demanded that Russia pulls out its troops from the breakaway region of Transnistria at the Ministerial Council of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Belgrade on Friday.
Addressing the council, Gherman called on Russia to conform to its obligations to allow civilian mission to take control of the enclave in accordance with an international mandate, adding that talks to end the crisis must continue.
“We reiterate our position on the need to complete the withdrawal of Russian military forces as well as ammunition stockpiles from Moldova in accordance with the international commitments,” Gherman said in a statement.
“We also support a transparent process of destruction of the ammunition. In addition, the current peacekeeping operation has to be transformed into an international civilian mission to address the real needs on the ground,” she concluded.
Transnistria, an unrecognised state wedged between Ukraine and EU member Romania, declared its independence from Moldova in 1990.
In 1992, around 1,500 people were killed in a war between Moldova and the authorities in Transnistria, with Russian Cossacks intervening on the side of the breakaway enclave.
Although Russia does not formally recognise Transnistria, many of the half a million people living in the region have Russian citizenship and enjoy the support of the Russian state.
Today, Russia has 1,200 soldiers from its 14th Army and more than 20,000 tonnes of bombs stored in Transnistria, despite having promised to withdraw its troops and weapons from the region at an OSCE summit in Istanbul in 1999.
In 2014, Transnistria requested to unite with Russia following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. It has also been speculated that Russia aims to create a corridor along Ukraine’s southern Black Sea coast to link Transnistria with territories under the control of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Moldova is additionally troubled by pro-Russian sentiment in its autonomous region of Gagauzia, with 98.4 percent of voters in the region expressing a desire for closer relations with the Russian-led CIS Customs Union in a poll conducted in early 2014.