Breakaway Transnistria region could become next flashpoint with Russia

Moscow-allied de facto state between Moldova and Ukraine threatens to destabilize region

Al Jazeera, By Matthew Luxmoore, July 19

Tiraspol, Transnistria — Viktor Dobrov remembers the bullets. On June 19, 1992, receiving news of unrest at home while away on business in Russia, he flew back to Moldova’s capital Chisinau and spent three days making his way east through the epicenter of the country’s civil war, finally reaching the city of Tiraspol to rejoin his wife and 10-year-old son five days later on June 24.

“We walked across holding white flags. There were snipers sitting on the roofs, and shooting from all sides,” he recalled, pointing at a bridge across the Dniester River, which today demarcates Moldova’s border with the pseudo-state that emerged in the conflict’s wake.

By the time the Moldovan army’s efforts to reclaim the region were repelled by Russian-backed separatists, the military conflict had claimed some 600 lives. A ceasefire signed that July left a narrow strip of land running from the Ukrainian border to the Dniester’s right bank as part of a new, breakaway republic called Transnistria.

Despite being recognized by no official government, Transnistria has survived 25 years since declaring independence in 1990. Moldova has learned to live alongside its Moscow-backed separatist region, continuing to update contingency plans in the hopes of future re-integration. Meanwhile, Russia bases over 1,000 regular troops as part of its Operational Group on the territory, while an international peacekeeping force and a mediated program of negotiations help maintain calm.

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