Responding to Moldova’s calls for Russian troop withdrawal and an international solution to the Transnistria conflict, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has released a torrent of verbal abuse and warnings against Moldova.
On December 15, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement terming Moldova’s position “absurd, irresponsible, and obviously an unfriendly one . . . The gross distortion of facts regarding the Russian forces and peacekeepers, the attempts to present them as ‘occupiers,’ arouse our just anger.”
Accusing Moldova of having “wrecked the signing of the 2003 Kozak Memorandum” [on “federalization” with Transnistria under Russian “guarantees,”], the statement claimed that Chisinau’s refusal “sharpened distrust between Chisinau and Tiraspol,” which in turn resulted in “suspension of the evacuation of [Russian] military stockpiles,” which in turn necessitates that “Russian troops stay on with the mission of securing the stockpiles.” The statement claimed, furthermore, that Russian troops must stay on as “peacekeepers” pending a political resolution of the Transnistria conflict. It did not mention that Moscow’s solution envisages simply redesignating the “peacekeeping” troops as “guarantor” troops. (Itar-Tass, December 15).
On December 16, Russia’s Ambassador to Moldova, Nikolai Ryabov, held talks with Russian-installed leaders in Tiraspol. At the concluding press conference, Ryabov described Moldova’s position as “harsh” and “reckless” and amounting to “ultimatums” to Russia. He announced that Russia insists on Tiraspol’s right to trade with Russia and otherwise conduct “independent economic activities.” (Olvia-press, Infotag, December 16).
These are only the latest polemical attacks from Moscow on Moldova. The series had begun with verbal assaults by Kremlin-connected political consultant Gleb Pavlovsky and the chairmen of the Duma and Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committees, Konstantin Kosachev and Mikhail Margelov, until the Russian government weighed in.
On November 29, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Moldova’s Ambassador Vladimir Turcan “in connection with the recent escalation of tension in the Transnistria conflict.” Clearly alluding to Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, the Russian note charged, “Official persons in Chisinau allow themselves harsh and unfair statements about Russia, questioning its role as an impartial mediator in the Transnistria conflict-settlement negotiations. Claims are being made that the five-sided format has lost relevance . . . The Moldovan ambassador’s attention was called to the absolute lack of proof of such accusations and the lack of any kind of arguments.” The note concluded, “We do not intend to refrain from making objective, principled statements in discussing Russia-Moldova relations, because these are important to us” — a clear warning that Moscow would continue the polemics.
In the run-up to and during the OSCE’s year-end meeting in Sofia on December 6-7, Russia rejected a draft “Declaration on Moldova’s Security and Stability,” which had been authored jointly by Moldova, the United States, the European Union, and Romania. The coauthors had informed Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE’s Moldova Mission and Chairmanship of the document’s content during the drafting process and were hoping to have the Declaration signed by all seven parties during the Sofia meeting. However, Russia vetoed the document, primarily on the grounds that it no longer stipulated Moldova’s “federalization.”
On the Kremlin-connected Strana.ru website, analyst Gennady Konenko of the government-run Institute on CIS Countries observed that the proposed “federalization” [under Kozak and subsequent projects] “would have enabled Transnistria to block Chisinau’s ongoing pro-Western course . . . Transnistria, of course, would not have allowed Moldova’s recent change of direction toward European integration” (Strana.ru, December 8).
A release by the official RIA-Novosti agency, whose commentary-type pieces reflect official policy, accused Moldova’s President Voronin of “pursuing a hard-line policy toward Russia and Transnistria . . . scurrying to persuade the West of his loyalty to it, and flirting at the same time with nationalist opinion in his bailiwick. None of this will save him, however” (RIA-Novosti, December 13).
Moldova’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded in a December 15 communique that Russian statements “fail to address the issue of a legal basis for Russia’s military presence in Moldova,” and that they make no mention of Russia’s international obligation to withdraw the troops. Noting the unconditional nature of that obligation, Chisinau rejects any attempt to attach preconditions, such as removal of military stockpiles or a Russian-approved political solution in Transnistria. “Setting such conditions amounts to gross interference into internal affairs of our country,” and Moldova’s refusal of federalization “cannot serve as pretext for failure to withdraw the Russian forces. The Russian side’s open statements to this effect “amount to blackmail, dishonoring Russia” (Moldpress, December 15).