Transnistria on the brink: Sheriffs vs Patriots

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The Moldovan opposition newspaper Vremya predicts conflict among the leaders of the tiny breakaway republic Transnistria, putting the region on the brink of an economic and political crisis, according to a Transitions Online analysis. 

Sergei Bogdanov of Vremya claims that the current misunderstandings between the executive and parliamentary branches of power in Moldov’s breakaway Transnistria region indicate the beginnings of a war between the group centred around Transnistrian president Igor Smirnov and the powerful Sheriff company, represented by speaker and chairman of the region’s supreme council or parliament, Yevgeniy Shevchuk. 

Bogdanov also reports that Smirnov has fallen out with Moscow following the disappearance of millions of dollars of humanitarian aid offered by Russia. The paper did not rule out that, through its hardline policy, Russia may be trying to persuade the Transnistria authorities to accept reunification with Moldova as part of a single state. 

Meanwhile, the authorities’ quarrelling has left citizens of the Transnistria region at a loss, writes Bogdanov. The economic outlook for the region is worsening, with smaller-than-expected revenues doing little to offset a huge budget deficit of 47%. Costly referenda in 2006 did not help the situation, with the referendum on the region’s accession to Russia alone costing $1 million, claims Vremya. 

The situation came to a head with the March killing of the Patriotic Party leader Viktor Neumoin, in which Bogdanov believes the Renewal Party was strongly implicated. The Renewal party is backed by the Sheriff company, which holds a monopoly on the region’s telecommunications, petroleum products, chain stores, and foreign trade. In the author’s eyes, the legislative power has publicly thrown down the gauntlet to the executive power, with Shevchuk directly accusing Smirnov and his family of wrongdoing. 

The paper concludes that a genuine struggle for power has begun in Transnistria, with the region facing both an economic crisis and a political split, as the Renewal and Patriotic parties openly struggle for power. Rumours abound that Smirnov has fallen out with the Kremlin, which is refusing to release desperately-needed financial help to the region. The struggle has begun. 

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