Books on Moldova
Leu (plural: Lei)
Update No: 310 - (26/10/06)
Message to Moscow
The Moldovans are fed up with the Russians meddling in their affairs. The
Moldovan parliament on October 12th adopted a resolution calling on Russian
lawmakers to stop supporting separatists controlling the Transnistria province
in eastern Moldova.
Pridnestrovie, also known as Transnistria or Trans-Dniester, is embroiled in a
16 year- old territorial claim with neighbouring Moldova. A hot war, which ended
with a ceasefire agreement in 1992, has now been replaced by a cold war and an
information war, in which both sides accuse the other of numerous unproven
By a law passed in 2004 Russia's State Duma, the country's lower chamber of
parliament, decreed that it could absorb certain break-away territories of
former Soviet republics, so long as it was done 'peacefully.' They had in mind
primarily Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia and Transnistriain Moldova. The
current crisis between Georgia and Russia is making the Moldovans fearful on
their own account. Is trouble brewing for them too?
Moldovan lawmakers criticized the Duma more recently for questioning Moldova's
territorial integrity by supporting a controversial Transnistria referendum,
held in September, where 97 percent of the region's voters endorsed a proposal
to unite with Russia. In early October, the Duma adopted a statement, approved
by a 419-0 vote, saying the referendum had been conducted legally and that its
results "should be taken into account by the international community"
in order to protect human rights, peace and security and resolve the dispute
over the region. Russia should also take into account "the free expression
of the will of the people of Transnistria" when building its policy, it
said, suggesting that the government should be more aggressive about supporting
their hopes of joining Russia.
Moldova's parliament said that the statement was unacceptable under
international law and that Russian lawmakers openly acted as an advocate for the
separatists. Moldova and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE) did not recognize the referendum.
The Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin has said the Transnistria region is run
by an undemocratic regime that fosters organized crime, and has called on Russia
to withdraw its 1,500 troops stationed in Transnistria. It is notorious for its
smuggling activities conducted by those with close links to the Russian
underworld, including, it was widely believed, arms-dealing.
However, Moscow will have none of this; and curiously, now nor does reputable
opinion in the West, such as that of the OSCE.
Russian Defence Ministry survey states no unauthorized sales of stored arms
A month-long survey carried out by Russia's Ministry of Defence states that
all stored weapons in Transnistria are fully accounted for. This refutes
speculation by Moldova that the weapons might have been sold on the black market
- at least in the eyes of Moscow. Most have already been removed or destroyed
under the supervision of the OSCE, the survey concluded, giving endorsement that
has been approved by the US State Department too.
The audit and physical on-site review was initiated by an order from President
Putin, following a meeting earlier this year with his Moldovan counterpart,
President Voronin of the Communist Party. Voronin, a former Soviet-era Major
General, has much in common with Putin, not just a shared Christian name
'Vladimir,' but a past career in the Soviet security network, in which Putin was
a KGB operative, and a long-time communist background. They respect each other,
which is decidedly not the case with Putin and US-educated and Western -inclined
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who has been consistently denied a
private audience with the Russian ruler.
In that common origin lies hope for a more measured outcome in Moldovan-Russian
affairs than is prevailing in Georgian-Russian relations right now. In the
meeting, Voronin repeated claims by Chisinau that stored weapons guarded by
Russia in Transnistria were finding their way to the black market.
All weapons fully controlled and accounted for
"With the president-to-president agreement on the audit, and the
successful finding that none of these claims are true, these fears are now laid
to rest," claims a Russian Defence Ministry spokesman, Major General Boris
He emphatically denied claims and rumours that Pridnestrovie (another name for
the breakaway enclave) was leaking Russian weapons, and that Russian weapons
stored in the area were being siphoned off for unauthorized sale on the black
market. On 12th October, Sergey produced the findings of a special commission
from Russia's Defence Ministry which for 20 working days - four weeks in total -
was involved in a full audit of all stored weapons deposits located in
Transnistria, between Ukraine and Moldova.
According to the Major General, the group of generals and commissioned officers
of the main rocket artillery administration of the Ministry of Defence satisfied
itself that "nothing was missing or unaccounted for. Not a single pistol,
nor machinegun, not a single grenade, nor any other type of weapon."
That is categorical enough. Is it true?
Who to believe?
Approximately 800 Russian troops are involved in guarding and dismantling an
old Soviet-era ammunitions dump in Kolbasna, in northern Transnistria. The
majority of the ammunition has by now been removed from Kolbasna under the
supervision of the OSCE. Military equipment which it is impractical to remove
has been undergoing on-site destruction. The US State Department has publicly
stated that the process of removal of ex-Soviet munitions and equipment has been
carried out with efficiency since 2003.
Chief among the Moldovan claims against Transnistria, as we have seen, is that
the unrecognised country is a "black hole" and a hub for weapons
smuggling. Tiraspol, its capita Transnistria l, counters by pointing out that as
a landlocked country with no airport, all exports - legal or illegal - must go
through either Moldova or Ukraine, making weapons smuggling next to impossible,
and that Moldova's accusations have absolutely no basis in reality. Of course
Ukraine's corrupt Kuchma government was believed to be fully engaged in
facilitating the global movement of such contraband, as they operated an open
border with Transnistria until the time of the 'Orange revolution'.
Actually this is rather disingenuous of Tiraspol. After all the enclave owes its
existence to the fact that it is separated from Moldova proper by a great river,
the Dniester, giving it its name, that flows right into the Black Sea!
Western diplomats agree with Tiraspol, however, having stated to US-funded RFE/RL
that Moldova's claims are wildly exaggerated. OSCE and European Union officials
state that there is no evidence to indicate that the country has ever trafficked
arms at any time in the past. Evidence going back sixteen years would of course
be hard to obtain for anyone without access to the genuine records, but western
newspaper investigations have told a contrary story.
Well, well. It is a question of who you believe. The affair calls to mind the
dictum of the radical UK journalist, Claud Cockburn, in the 1930s that he never
believed in a rumour until it had been officially denied!