Citadel on the Dniester


The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic - the state formation with difficult plight. Besides the delicate balance of relations with Kishinev and Moscow, the situation in neighbouring Ukraine has to be taken into account. Both unionists dreaming about entering into Romania and Kiev’s nationalists bear a grudge against the distinctive enclave of the Russian world. Recently, Moldovan radicals have even offered to give Pridnestrovie to Ukraine in exchange for the south of Bessarabia and part of Bukovina, included in the Odessa oblast. The situation can get worse any day. We add that pro-Russian Tiraspol as a thorn in the side of Washington and Brussels. Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PMR Vitaly IGNATIEV, who visited the Russian capital on the eve of the May holidays, told on peculiarities of the current political situation to The Culture.

The Culture: What was the aim of your visit to Moscow?

Ignatiev: Such visits are a good opportunity to “compare notes” with key partners. Consider: it was possible to hold a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Grigory Karasin within a short period of time - by the way, he has been in Tiraspol recently, with Dmitry Loskutov, an Assistant to Special Representative of the Russian President on Pridnestrovie Dmitry Rogozin. We held a fruitful discussion with Director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Lieutenant-General of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation Leonid Reshetnikov.

The visit concluded with a very important decision – the Federal Customs Service of Russia and the State Customs Committee of Pridnestrovie signed a memorandum on cooperation. The practical meaning of the document is that the customs authorities of both countries will establish a direct exchange of data online in the near future. Such a mechanism will allow Russian colleagues to differentiate Pridnestrovian exports from the Moldovan ones, and in my view, this is a serious step towards strengthening the economic sovereignty of our republic. Especially, considering the fact that the Moldovan products are periodically subject to the various bans in Russia. Our producers became hostage of such situations before, although the Russian Federation never had any complaints about the quality of their products.

The Culture: Does the 5+2 international negotiation structure on the Pridnestrovian problem settlement remain effective, which includes Russia, Ukraine, OSCE mediator and observers - the EU and the US, in addition to Moldova and Pridnestrovie?

Ignatiev: You’ve rightly noted: The 5+2 format is primarily a scheme, a structure, and as such we assess it as to be very balanced and well-established. The “Permanent Conference” format is a platform, which presents interests of all influential players involved in the Moldovan-Pridnestrovian conflict settlement.

Another thing is that even the most high-tech and perfect mechanism will not be effective, if someone does not want to use it as intended.

The reality is that in recent years the Republic of Moldova has taken steps to discredit the negotiation process, undermines the contractual and legal basis of the 5+2 format. Since 2014 Kishinev has systematically discriminated against Pridnestrovians by initiating criminal prosecution against them, creating a different kind of economic barriers, applying the blockade actions in the field of rail and road transport communication. It is difficult to conduct a normal dialogue when the massive pressure is put on one of the parties. Today, it is not easy to find an understanding with Moldovan authorities even on the most depoliticized issues, for example, in the field of freedom of movement. It is needless to say all the more on the resolution of problems of higher order in the near future.

As for the people of Pridnestrovie, our society would like the settlement according to the formula “civilized divorce” with Moldova and building good neighbourly relations with it. We can and want to live in peace and harmony with our neighbours. Unfortunately, the unfriendly actions by Kishinev and Kiev give the impression that we are alone in this quest.

The Culture: How dangerous for your republic are unionists’ intentions?

Ignatiev: Unionism is a traditional part of the Moldovan modern politics. To a certain extent this is an internal affair of Moldova, respectively, it is up to its people to choose a course. However, I cannot but mention that the situation when a significant part of the population is so disappointed in its country, that they see the only way out of the crisis in the voluntary renunciation of sovereignty – is a distinct indicator of failure and instability of the state. Thus, the recent history confirms that in 1990 the people of Pridnestrovie declared independence, was not mistaken in choosing the path. Then, by the way, the ideas of ​​unionism in Moldova were at the top of popular support, and the wave of nationalism just played a decisive role in the armed aggression unleashed against us. I think the experience of those years is a good reminder of what happens if attempts are made to impose something on Pridnestrovians against their will, whether it is “unionism”, mythologized “European future” or fantasies on “unification with Moldova”.

Alas, now no political muscle is noticeable in Kishinev which would stand for building good-neighbourly equatable relations with Pridnestrovie, not to mention the recognition of de jure independence of the PMR, existing de facto for more than 25 years. Incidentally, such a position would be much more rational in terms of objective reality and would allow to establish the stability in the entire region for a long time.

The Culture: What political and economic international ties for the PMR, except the Russian direction, are the most important now?

Ignatiev: Any. If they are built on the principles of parity, mutual benefit and are consistent with the strategic course of the republic towards the rapprochement with the Russian Federation and the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union. We are an open state, with an open export-oriented economy, so we are ready for the constructive balanced interaction with all partners. Admittedly, we, unfortunately, have become highly dependent in economic terms on the European market – against our will, of course. The total blockade against Pridnestrovian enterprises undertaken by Moldova and Ukraine since 2006 has led to the fact that we were forced to reorient towards the EU. Traditional markets for our producers are Russia and the CIS countries as a whole. Today, we are working intensively on returning them. I would like to note that the IV Investment Forum will be held in Tiraspol on May 19-20, as we expect it will be a necessary step in this vital process for us.

The Culture: How are the diplomatic relations with Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh within the community “For Democracy and Rights of Peoples” developing?

Ignatiev: We stand for the settlement of any contradictions at the negotiation table – it is a universal formula. As for another aggravation of the situation around the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, provoked by Azerbaijan, Pridnestrovie perceived it extremely painfully. The people of Artsakh is fraternal for us, and the republic itself is an ally, we are bound by a common destiny in many respects. What the military aggression is, we also know firsthand, unfortunately.

Speaking recently to the Foreign Minister of the NKR Karen Mirzoyan, I expressed the readiness of Pridnestrovie to provide any necessary humanitarian, political and diplomatic support.

The relations with our friends - Abkhazia and South Ossetia - are developing steadily, we are increasing our cooperation in various fields incrementally, we are in direct contact through diplomatic offices. It is planned to sign a number of new agreements this year, which are aimed at strengthening friendly relations.

The Culture: Can the diplomatic relations with the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic be established in the near future?

Ignatiev: It is no secret that the situation in Ukraine attracts the increased attention of international community in the framework of the Minsk agreements. A fragile, unstable one, but still the peace has been established today in Donbass, due to the efforts of politicians and diplomats. I think, in such conditions without reaching clear parameters for stabilization any rash actions can be potentially dangerous for the full settlement of the crisis in the South-East of Ukraine ...

The Culture: Apparently, you also keep in mind the possibility of an aggressive response on the part of Kiev?

Ignatiev: The threat was real, and recently President of Pridnestrovie Yevgeny Shevchuk told about it. Thus, the very serious concerns existed one or two years ago, against the backdrop of a sudden change in the position of official Kiev and some representatives of the Ukrainian political elite regarding Pridnestrovie. In particular, the information about a “Pridnestrovian threat” was actively spread, including by high-ranking Ukrainian officials, the number of military units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine increased at the border. We believe that the common sense of our Ukrainian colleagues has prevailed, and we hope that time will return us to normal good-neighbourly relations.

The Culture: How was the Ukrainian government's intention to build a wall on the border with Pridnestrovie perceived in the republic?

Ignatiev: Very quietly. The moat for it, by the way, was dug only a few tens of kilometers; may be because the whole idea exclusively fulfilled the propaganda function for internal use.

The Culture: Were there additional problems after the appointment of ex-President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili as the governor of the Odessa Oblast?

Ignatiev: We do not tend to associate the position of official Kiev with various personalities. Moreover, we think that it is not necessary to exaggerate the powers of a regional official, invited from outside. We hope that the actions and statements of the leadership from our neighbouring Odessa Oblast will not undermine the foundations of cross-border relations, will not provoke social tensions and will not create problems for Pridnestrovians, among which, it’s worthy of note, there are about 100 000 citizens of Ukraine.

The Culture: Does the latter stir up the internal situation in the PMR?

Ignatiev: Not at all. Pridnestrtovie - perhaps a unique for the modern world example of the society, is in no way ethnically divided. Moreover, there is no significant correlation between nationality, language, communication and political preferences here. I remind, the national referendum was held in 2006: more than 97 per cent of voters were in favour of independence and subsequent free integration into the Russian Federation. According to the recent survey, Pridnestrovians’ preferences have not changed.

There are three languages ​​in the republic - Russian, Moldovan and Ukrainian - officially equal. Such an approach has proven its effectiveness during a quarter of century period of existence of the PMR. I am confident that our experience of inter-ethnic harmony can be successfully used in other countries facing problems with it, including in the EU countries.

Source: The Culture newspaper