Transnistria, a self-proclaimed republic with its own constitution, military, currency, and flag but no international recognition, could be drawn into Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Last week, a top Russian general stated that the military is aiming for “complete control” of the eastern Donbas region and southern Ukraine, as well as access to Transnistria, Moldova’s breakaway region.
Explosions erupted in Tiraspol, Transnistria’s capital, on Monday, which Ukraine’s Defense Ministry described as a “planned provocation” by Russian secret services.
Here’s all you need to know about Transnistria and why it matters to Russia:
Transnistria is a short sliver of land 1,350 square miles in size, situated between Ukraine and the rest of Moldova – only slightly larger than Rhode Island, the smallest state in the United States.
It is home to over 500,000 people, the majority of whom speak Russian.
Transnistria declared independence from the former Soviet republic of Moldova after a two-year war (1990-1992) erupted amid the Soviet Union’s demise.
The Russians intervened to support Transnistria, although it was never recognised as an independent state. The fighting between the Moldovan government and the separatists ended in 1992, but approximately 1,500 Russian forces have stayed in Transnistria since then.
The remark by Maj. Gen. Minnekaev outlining Russia’s strategy for the “second phase” of the war alarmed Moldovan authorities, who summoned the Russian ambassador.
According to the Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, the statements about Transnistria are “unfounded and contradict the position of the Russian Federation supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, within its internationally recognized borders.”
It went on to say that during their discussion with the Russian ambassador, Moldovan authorities emphasised their country’s status as a “neutral state,” which must be respected by all international actors, including the Russian Federation.
Some military analysts believe Russia intends to rely on Transnistria for logistical support and to use its strategic location to construct a land corridor along the Black Sea in order to capture the port city of Odesa.