Destinations Magazine

Transdniestria: Beyond the River

By Stizzard

FOR two decades, since a short war with Moldova ended in 1992, the self-declared republic of Transdniestria has been an unreconstructed vestige of the Soviet Union, a narrow slash of land stuck in a time warp. The flag boasts a wreath of agricultural plenty alongside a hammer and sickle. Hulking Soviet administrative buildings line the main street in the capital, Tiraspol. Given events in neighbouring Ukraine, the fate of this enclave of 500,000 people has new importance. During his annual phone-in with voters on April 17th, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, spoke of a looming “blockade” against Transdniestria and hinted that Russia might defend the interests of Russian-speakers there, a threat he has also talked of to some Western leaders.With strong pro-Russian sentiment and several thousand Russian troops on the ground, Transdniestria presents clear temptations. General Philip Breedlove of NATO has warned that Mr Putin could send troops through southern Ukraine toward Transdniestria. Or he could use the enclave as a staging-post to infiltrate anti-Kiev separatists into Odessa. Or he might exploit Russian influence to put pressure on the governments in Chisinau and Kiev.Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Mr Putin’s policy of protecting Russians and Russian-speakers in the former Soviet world were bound to reopen the issue of Transdniestria. In Soviet days it was a…

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