Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 39

President Petru Lucinschi’s senior adviser, Anatol Taran, stated yesterday that Russia envisages halving its troops in Moldova to 2,500 by the end of 1997. Russian Defense Council secretary Yuri Baturin informed Lucinschi of this plan during an unpublicized stopover in Chisinau last week while visiting Transdniester. On that visit Baturin watched exercises of the Operational Group of Russian Forces (the renamed 14th Army) and inspected its ammunition depots, including the giant stockpiles at Colbasna near Rabnita, where improper storage of old ammunition and explosives pose safety risks. Baturin told a staff meeting in Tiraspol that the planned personnel reduction, a part of general manpower cuts in Russia’s armed forces, would not affect OGRF’s mission of "ensuring regional stability." He also said that the remaining Russian troops would stay in place until final political settlement of the Transdniester question is achieved.

Baturin also conferred with Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov, who called for a permanent Russian military presence in Moldova irrespective of the settlement of the Transdniester problem. Smirnov appeared to renew warnings that Tiraspol could claim ownership of at least part of OGRF’s arsenal if Russian troops are removed. Lucinschi is starting today on an impromptu "working visit" to Moscow for talks with Boris Yeltsin. (Monitor interviews, Basapress, Flux, February 23-24)

Transdniester Security Chief Drops Mask.