Russia’s largest ammunition stockpile in Europe–outside Russia itself–is located at Colbasna in Moldova’s Transdniester region, according to the commander of Russian troops in Moldova, Lieutenant-General Valery Yevnevich, interviewed in yesterday’s issue of the Russian Defense Ministry daily Krasnaya zvezda. The Colbasna arsenal contains more than 45,000 tons of ammunition and explosives. Yevnevich also mentions a storage site near Tiraspol containing complete battle gear for 17,000 soldiers. He omits to mention the figures for tanks, artillery and other ordnance in the arsenals guarded by the Operational Group of Russian Forces (OGRF) in Moldova.
Since 1991 the Moldovan government has demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops–now down to less than 3,000–and of their weaponry to Russia. Yevnevich’s comments on the question of the withdrawal reflect the Russian government’s position in the negotiations with Moldova. He invokes the Transdniester authorities’ refusal to permit the evacuation of Russian arms, the alleged peacekeeping role of Russian troops and the need for a solution that would meet Russia’s own interests. “In the final analysis, Russian troops are here by decision of Russia’s political and military leadership, and only that leadership is entitled to decide the future of the OGRF” (Krasnaya zvezda, May 19). Such a position is wholly incompatible with Moldova’s status as an internationally recognized independent country.
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