Pro-EU Moldova dismisses breakaway region's request for Russian help


  • World
  • Thursday, 29 Feb 2024

Delegates gather to take part in the congress of deputies, in front of the Palace of the Republic in Tiraspol, Moldovan breakaway region of Transdniestria, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Vladislav Bachev

CHISINAU (Reuters) -Moldova's breakaway Transdniestria region asked Russia on Wednesday to help its economy withstand Moldovan "pressure," at a meeting of hundreds of officials dismissed by the pro-European Chisinau government as a propaganda event to gain headlines.

The region, long seen as a potential flashpoint with Russia in Europe, held a "congress of deputies of all levels" after Moldova required Transdniestrian firms to pay import duties to the central budget from January.

The congress passed a resolution saying it would appeal to both houses of Russia's parliament "with a request to implement diplomatic measures to protect Transdniestria in the face of increasing pressure from Moldova".

The unrecognised statelet, which borders war-stricken Ukraine to the east, has maintained autonomy from Chisinau for three decades with support from Moscow, which has more than a thousand troops stationed there since a brief war in 1992.

After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, tensions surged around the separatist region, which says it has 220,000 Russian citizens.

Relations between Moldova and Russia have also frayed as the Chisinau government has steered a pro-European course and accused Moscow of trying to destabilise it.

President Maia Sandu, in Albania for a summit of southeast European countries, said Moldova remained committed to a peaceful resolution of the Transdniestrian conflict.

"What the government is doing today is making small steps for the economic reintegration of the country," she said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he and Sandu, meeting on the sidelines of the summit, discussed "the latest events in Moldova's Transdniestria region and Russia's efforts to destabilise the situation in the region".

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said Kyiv "will remain an active participant in the Transdniestrian settlement process" and called for the "speedy withdrawal of Russian troops".

Oleg Serebrian, a Moldovan deputy prime minister, said the congress was a propaganda event, and that the breakaway region and all Moldova's citizens were benefiting from Moldova's push to join the European Union.

WASHINGTON WATCHING REGIONAL DEVELOPMENTS

The United States "firmly supports" Moldova's sovereignty and territorial integrity, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Wednesday in Washington.

"Given Russia's increasingly aggressive role in Europe, we are watching Russia's actions in Transdniestria and the broader situation there very closely," Miller said, using another name for the region.

Commenting on the congress, Russia's Foreign Ministry said defending the interests of Transdniestria's citizens was a priority and that the request would be reviewed carefully, the RIA news agency reported.

The region's economy minister told the congress, held in the regional capital Tiraspol, that customs revenues paid into Transdniestria's budget had fallen by 18% under the new regulation.

"There is social and economic pressure on Transdniestria, which directly contradicts European principles and approaches to the protection of human rights and free trade," the resolution said.

(Reporting by Alexander Tanas; additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Heavens, Kevin Liffey, Mark Heinrich, Ron Popeski and Richard Chang)

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