On November 17, the Russian Duma passed a resolution urging Russia’s’ president and government to declare Transdniester a zone of special Russian interests, to open a Russian general consulate in Tiraspol, to consider the official recognition of the "Dniester Republic" by Russia, and to send official observers to Transdniester’s planned referendum next month on joining the CIS as a state in its own right. Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s party proposed the resolution, with Zhirinovsky himself taking the floor to support it. The resolution was backed by many centrist and some pro-reform deputies. "Dniester Republic" leaders were present at the session. (13)
In a statement the same day, Russia’s Foreign Ministry stopped short of disavowing the Duma’s resolution. While paying lip service to Moldova’s independence and territorial integrity, the statement called on Chisinau and Tiraspol to agree among themselves on a political status for Transdniester, and offered to invite Transdniester to sign the settlement at a "summit" with presidents Boris Yeltsin and Mircea Snegur.
Also on the 17th, Russia’s armed forces newspaper quoted Defense Minister Pavel Grachev as mentioning" steps being taken to legalize the status of Russian troops" in Moldova and other CIS countries. Grachev’s remarks came just after his meeting with Yeltsin, who approved joint Defense and Foreign Ministry proposals to open talks with Moldova on granting basing rights and peacekeeping status to the Russian troops in Transdniester. (14)
In Chisinau, President Mircea Snegur issued a public appeal to Yeltsin to use his powers to protect "the settlement process…against the hard-line forces’ attempts to torpedo it." Complaining that the Duma’s "unfriendly act…contravenes the traditional Moldovan-Russian ties of friendship and cooperation," Snegur expressed his "trust that Boris Yeltsin shares his view on the need for a negotiated settlement." In a notably firmer tone, Moldova’s Foreign Ministry rebuffed the Duma’s resolution for "seriously damaging Moldovan-Russian relations and the peace and security of this region…setting a dangerous precedent harmful to general European stability." The ministry called on the member states of the UN and OSCE to disapprove of the Duma’s action and to "take necessary steps in support of Moldova’s territorial integrity." In Tiraspol, Transdniester "vice president" Aleksandr Karaman traced the Duma’s resolution to the fact that "Moldova does not hide its pro-Western orientation, while Russia reacts appropriately to the danger of NATO’s eastward enlargement." (15)
The Duma voted twice this year to keep Russian troops in Transdniester despite the October 1994 Russian-Moldovan troop withdrawal agreement, which was since disowned by the Russian government as well. Snegur’s response is consistent with his record of plaintive and unheeded appeals to Yeltsin when Russian hard-liners undertake acts hostile to Moldova. The Foreign Ministry’s more forthright response may stem in part from domestic circumstances: senior presidential officials complained to Moldovan media last week that the foreign minister was no longer amenable to presidential control, having aligned himself with the president’s political rivals.
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