Moldova introduced duties on the supply of goods to Transnistria, and the economic blockade of the unrecognized republic intensified. In Tiraspol they say that the scandalous decision will lead to rising inflation and suffocation of the economy. At the same time, the situation on the borders of the PMR is deteriorating. Chisinau is holding more and more military exercises, and in early January there was a shooting on the border with Ukraine. Izvestia understood the situation.
What is known about Moldovan duties
The Moldovan authorities introduced duties on the supply of goods to Transnistria, and corresponding amendments to the Customs Code came into force in the new year. Thus, Chisinau abolished the previous rules, according to which only the Transnistrian government collected duties.
According to various estimates, the decision of the Moldovan authorities will result in losses for Tiraspol of up to $30 million per year. “This will entail inflationary processes in the form of rising prices for most goods and, as a result, a decrease in the purchasing power of residents of Transnistria. Moldova is intensifying its policy of strangling our economy and provoking a social crisis,” said the President of the Transnistrian Moldavian Republic (PMR) Vadim Krasnoselsky.
Photo: TASS/Sergey Malgavko
In turn, the head of the Pridnestrovian government, Alexander Rosenberg, recalled that earlier Moldova began collecting duties from Pridnestrovian exporters. Because of this, enterprises in the republic began to incur additional expenses in the amount of $260–300 thousand per month, approximately $3.5 million per year. In addition, Chisinau interferes with the work of the largest factories in Transnistria, including preventing exports, and introducing new taxes.
In general, according to the Transnistrian government, Moldovan sanctions have a noticeable impact on the republic’s economy. Over the 11 months of last year, exports of Pridnestrovian products decreased by 12%. The total volume of exports for key items – metal, light, engineering and chemical products – decreased by 19%. “Moldova’s blocking of bank transfers also adds to the difficulties,” Rosenberg emphasized.
How they react in Tiraspol
President of Transnistria Vadim Krasnoselsky said that innovations will not force the republic to capitulate. He called on Chisinau to abandon pressure and sit down at the negotiating table. According to him, Tiraspol is ready for dialogue in the “5+2” format. The initiative, however, does not look very realistic, because the last time a meeting in this format took place four years ago, after which the negotiations were put on pause.
Moldova responded by saying that it would not abandon the changes. “No actions of Tiraspol will force us to revise the Customs Code. We understand their purpose very well. They want to achieve the abolition of duties in order to return to preferences, but this will not happen,” said Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Serebryan. He also added that Chisinau and Tiraspol will discuss the accumulated issues face to face, in the “1+1” format.
Photo: Getty Images/Alexander Hassenstein – UEFA/UEFA
In addition, Tiraspol introduced retaliatory restrictions. In particular, farmers from Moldovan border villages were required to undergo customs procedures, including certifying their goods for import into Transnistria, export and re-export. Moldovan car owners were obliged to pay tolls to the Transnistrian budget. From February 1, tariffs for gas, electricity, water and sewerage will also be increased for Moldovan legal entities located on the territory of Transnistria.
The message from the PMR government notes that all these measures are designed to compensate for losses in the republican budget. In response, Chisinau once again stated that they still would not change their position on duties. On January 11, Pridnestrovian social activists also held a protest at the checkpoint on the contact line. During the rally, one of the participants said that activists sent letters to Moldovan ministries and departments, but in response received replies written as carbon copies.
How the security situation is changing
At the same time, the security situation is deteriorating. It is known that last year Moldova conducted 19 military exercises, some of which took place in close proximity to the contact line. The PMR noted that the sounds of gunshots and explosions are regularly heard in the city of Bendery and populated areas of the Grigoriopol region.
Photo: TASS/EPA/DUMITRU DORU
In addition, Moldova is actively purchasing new weapons. Last year, the republic received German “Piranha” armored vehicles, which can cross water obstacles, including rivers like the Dniester. Just before the New Year, Chisinau received a modern radar for airspace control, as well as a batch of drones, all-terrain vehicles and ammunition for infantry.
At the same time, the Moldovan leadership speaks openly about their plans. President Maia Sandu has repeatedly demanded the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers and military personnel guarding military warehouses in the village of Kolbasna. In an interview, she emphasized that Chisinau is striving to get rid of the “separatist regime.” “We hope that we will have the geopolitical opportunity to do this,” she said.
The situation on the line of contact between Transnistria and Ukraine is no less alarming. It has been repeatedly reported that Ukrainian border guards are preparing positions in the border area. Against this background, a disturbing incident occurred in early January. The Transnistrian intelligence service reported that shooting occurred on the contact line, as a result of which the Ukrainians actually kidnapped two Transnistrian citizens. Later in Kyiv they denied this message, calling it provocative.
Photo: REUTERS/Sergey Smolentsev
What the experts say
Chief researcher of the Russian State University for the Humanities, Doctor of Political Sciences Natalya Kharitonova says that Moldova is actually robbing Transnistria.
— Chisinau collects duties, but this money goes to the Moldovan budget, which is not spent on the residents of Transnistria. Tiraspol pays benefits, pensions, and salaries to residents of the republic from its own funds. In expert language, what is happening is called economic coercion for reintegration; to put it simply, this is an obvious robbery,” she notes.
Natalya Kharitonova also adds that the risks of military escalation in the region remain high.
— The problem for Chisinau is that the Moldovan army, despite all efforts, remains quite weak. Accordingly, Maia Sandu’s team will have to ask for help from Romania, which is a NATO member. For its part, Pridnestrovie will certainly turn to Russia for help, because more than 200 thousand Russian citizens live in the PMR, a peacekeeping contingent and Russian military personnel are stationed. Ukraine will not stand aside either. The tangle is turning out to be very bloody and tangled; the parties still prefer to maintain the status quo,” the interlocutor emphasizes.
Photo: IZVESTIA/Dmitry Korotaev
Moldovan political scientist Alexander Korinenko believes that Chisinau does not need the reintegration of Transnistria.
— In the event of unification, residents of the unrecognized republic will massively participate in the Moldovan elections, this is very dangerous for the pro-European forces, which will immediately find themselves in a noticeable minority. “I think the duties were introduced in order to somehow replenish the Moldovan budget, and also, on the contrary, to widen the gap between Chisinau and Tiraspol,” he claims.