Russia will not agree to remove its peacekeepers from the breakaway Transdniester region of Moldova, another ‘frozen conflict’ from the fall of the Soviet Union. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made these comments today at a press conference following an online meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Council of Foreign Ministers. Moldovan President-Elect Maia Sandu voiced the demand to removed the Russian troops recently when discussing future relations with the Russian Federation.
The Transdniester issue has long been a thorn in Chisinau’s relations with Moscow, where Moldova has seen foreign intervention roil the nation’s politics in recent decades.
“It’s hard to say what Ms. Sandu meant when she pointed to the need to withdraw Russian peacekeepers, but it will hardly help resolve the issue and we will hardly be able to accept this kind of irresponsible demand. That’s a fact,” Lavrov noted.
According to him, maintaining good relations with any country “require taking each other’s interests and previous agreements into account,” reported Russian state media agency TASS.
The Russian foreign minister emphasized that Russian peacekeepers were deployed to the conflict zone in accordance with decisions made by the five-plus-two group working to resolve the Transnistria issue and approved by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Their priority task is to maintain stability in the region.
“There is another group of Russian troops that guard ammunition depots in Cobasna. The depots are in poor condition and serious incidents can happen if there is no one left to monitor them,” Lavrov said.
The Russian top diplomat emphasized that after the deadlock in the process of resolving the Transnistria issue had been broken, more than half of Russian ammunition was removed from Transnistria and deactivated.
“But when Chisinau stopped implementing agreements, Transnistria strongly refused to resume ammunition withdrawal. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said earlier that we were ready to deactivate these hazardous items that are in poor condition but Chsinau and Tiraspol need to cooperate to make it happen,” Lavrov stressed.
The loss to Sandu of former President Igor Dodon, a Moscow influencer, was a blow to the Kremlin’s agenda in the tiny former Soviet republic.