Shots and explosions have been heard in the enclave again. Who stands to benefit from an escalation of the long ‘frozen’ conflict?
An armoured personnel carrier (APC) is parked near a Russian peacekeepers’ checkpoin in the city of Bendery, Moldova. © Sputnik / Vadim Savitskii / Russian Defence Ministry
While the world’s eyes are on Ukraine, Transnistria is facing an explosive situation. De facto self-governing since the Soviet collapse, the small territory, which borders Ukraine, is internationally recognised as part of Moldova.
A series of explosions shook the capital Tiraspol at the end of April, and shots have been heard near the frontier with its war-torn neighbor. Several key military and infrastructure buildings were hit – the Ministry of State Security, a TV and radio center, as well as the largest ammunition warehouse in Eastern Europe. The Transnistria issue has simmered on the fringes of global politics since the original fighting was settled on July 21, 1992, and a ceasefire was signed.
Now, thirty years later, this “frozen conflict” is challenging European security once again. Here, RT explains who could benefit from an escalation in Transnistria and how developments in the region will be affected by Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine.
The breakaway Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) was one of the first regions to go on high alert after the Russian operation began, in February. The majority of its residents take a pro-Moscow stance and since the beginning of the 1990s, Transnistria has severed ties with Moldova and has relied on the Kremlin’s support. Geographically, however, the PMR is close to the southwest of Ukraine, bordering Odessa and Vinnitsa.
Since the first days of Moscow’s operation, it became obvious that provocations could occur here. And it seems they have. On April 25, shots were allegedly fired at the Ministry of State Security from a grenade launcher. A fire started in the building as a result, and the explosion shattered windows in the nearby buildings, but no one was injured or killed. While the emergency services dealt with the debris, authorities tried to figure out who was behind the shooting. Eventually they concluded that such episodes played into the hands of those who wanted to drag Transnistria into the Russia-Ukraine conflict.