Vladimir Yastrebchak: Russian Military Presence in Pridnestrovie Is a Stabilizing Factor in the Region

On October 8, 2009, PMR's Foreign Minister Vladimir Yastrebchak gave an interview to the correspondents of the radio “Echo of Moscow”. In the course of the conversation a wide range of issues was touched upon, including the last statements made by new Moldovan authorities, the role of Russia in this region of Europe and prospects for the resumption of the Moldova-Pridnestrovie settlement process. Journalists were also interested in the recent statements of the PMR's President concerning the possibility of Pridnestrovie's becoming part of Russia.

Touching upon the demands for the Russian military troops to be withdrawn from Pridnestrovie, Vladimir Yastrebchak expressed his surprise over the fact that the first steps of the Moldovan authority, which is not completely formed, are that of laying down conditions rather than searching for approaches to cooperation. Diplomat reminded that the Russian military presence has two components: firstly, Russia is the member of the peacekeeping operation whose format is to remain unchangeable till Moldova-Pridnestrovie relations are completely settled down, what was confirmed by the Joint Declaration of the Presidents of Russia, Pridnestrovie and Moldova during their meeting in Moscow on 18 March, 2009, and secondly, presence of the Operational group of Russian troops in Pridnestrovie whose main task is to guard the ammunition. According to the Minister, the presence of the RTOG in the region is a prerogative of the bilateral relations between Russia and Pridnestrovie. References of the official Kishinev to Istanbul agreements are indefensible; Moscow fulfilled its obligations by utilizing heavy ammunition from the region. “Russian military presence has never posed a threat to peace and stability, on the contrary, it has always been a stabilizing factor in the region,” stated the head of the Pridnestrovian diplomacy. According to the diplomat, statements of the Moldovan authorities make think only of the Kishinev intention to revise its obligations and current agreements.       

Answering the question about the perspectives for the Moldova-Pridnestrovie settlement process to be restarted, Vladimir Yastrebchak marked that Tiraspol is open for a dialogue which should not be spontaneous but should rather represent a thoroughly elaborated mechanism, and its efficiency should be guaranteed by the international community. In his comments about the Kishinev statements concerning the possibility to solve problems of the Moldova-Pridnestrovie settlement in the “5+2” format only (Moldova and Pridnestrovie are parties of the conflict, Russia and Ukraine are countries-guarantors, the OSCE is a mediator, the USA and EU are observers), the diplomat specified that this format is regarded as additional negotiation mechanism, having appeared in the period when high-level contacts were blocked by the Moldovan side. By the way, as Vladimir Yastrebchak marked, the Joint Statement of the 18 March contains a call for providing all necessary conditions for the work in this format to be resumed as soon as possible. “We have not noticed any steps for providing such conditions,” informed the Minister, “restrictions for Pridnestrovian enterprises remain the same, railway line for export and import is still blocked, transport operators of the Third World countries cooperating with Pridnestrovie are being persecuted.” All this is a burden left to the new authority by its forerunners. One will be able to judge the present leadership when power structures are completely formed in Moldova.  By that time, as the Minister marked, Tiraspol expects Kishinev to define its position towards a range of earlier agreements reached in the course of the negotiation process, as well as towards the present-day realities. Vladimir Yastrebchak explained that Tiraspol finds it reasonless to begin negotiations from scratch, ignoring results achieved during the rule of preceding Moldovan Presidents as Snegur, Luchinski and Voronin. The change of power in Kishinev is Moldova's home affair and the settlement process should not begin anew after the scheduled elections in this country.

The recent statement of the PMR\'s President Igor Smirnov about the Pridnestrovian will to become part of Russia caused broad resonance in mass media.  In his comments about this statement requested by the journalists, Vladimir Yastrebchak marked that it is based on the results of the Referendum of September 17, 2006, when the Pridnestrovian people voted for the country's independence with a further free annexation to Russia. “It is the people who have made such a decision and the authority, including the President, should work for its realization,” told the Minister. “Our first goal is to gain international recognition. We have enough reasons either legal, or political, or economic in order to be recognized as a subject of international law,” he stressed. Vladimir Yastrebchak did not exclude the possibility of Pridnestrovie's future entering the Russian Federation as a region but this question can be solved through referendum only.  The Minister informed also of the ongoing process of harmonization of the Pridnestrovian legislation with the Russian one; the draft of the new PMR's Constitution, which is based on the working Russian Constitution, is presently at the finalization stage. All these facts foster integration processes between Russia and Pridnestrovie.

Vladimir Yastrebchak answered also other questions of the Russian journalists.