The PMR Honour Guard march towards the Memorial of Military Glory for a flower laying ceremony on Republic Day on September 2, 2023 in Tiraspol, Moldova (Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic). Tiraspol is the capital of Transnistria) (Photo by Peter Dench/Getty Images)


Moldovan region of Transnistria appeals for Russian ‘protection’


Pro-Russian rebel leaders in Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova, have pleaded to Russia for “protection”.

The move has raised international concern that the area, home to 469,000 inhabitants, could become a key element in Moscow’s war against neighbouring Ukraine.

Transnistrian lawmakers in the capital Tiraspol voted in favour of a resolution asking for Russian protection at a special Congress meeting on February 28.

They claimed Moldova was waging an “economic war” against Transnistria and that its Government was blocking vital imports in a move designed to turn the 4,163km² country into a “ghetto”.

“The decisions of the current Congress cannot be ignored by the international community,” Vitaly Ignatiev, the Ukraine-born foreign minister of the officially unrecognised nation, told the meeting.

“Firstly, it’s about seeking diplomatic support for Transnistria. We are saying that Russia is a responsible guarantor in the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict,” he said in an interview with Russia’s state-owned broadcaster Rossiya 24.

“We expect Russia to take into account the fact that more than 220,000 Russian citizens and hundreds of thousands of compatriots live in Transnistria,” he said.

“All these people hope that Russia will continue to play an active role in the talks.”

In response to the request, Russia stated that the security of those living in Transnistria was a “critical issue”.

Several Russian state news outlets quoted the Kremlin as saying: “One of our priorities is protecting the interests of the residents of Transnistria, our compatriots.”

The appeal for assistance from Moscow has sparked comparisons with the February 2022 call for protection from Russian-backed insurgents in Eastern Ukraine against what they claimed was the constant bombardment and shelling of the area by Kyiv military forces.

Since Moscow launched its full-scale attack on Ukraine, Moldova has been concerned that the Kremlin would utilise Transnistria to create a new front that would encompass Odesa in the Southwest of Ukraine. Moldova has accused Moscow of inflaming tensions there.

Despite the volatile situation, the European Union is set to move forward with the accession of Moldova into the bloc.

In November, the European Commission recommended Ukraine and Moldova begin formal accession negotiations once they complete some reforms, a topic high on the priorities list of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU that started in January 2024.