Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has warned Moldova that signing an association agreement with the European Union would have “serious consequences” for the country’s future, echoing similar threats levelled at Ukraine.
In an interview for Rossiya-24, published ahead of his visit to the Moldovan capital Chi?in?u yesterday (2 September), Rogozin said that such a move would jeopardise the future of Transnistria, a breakaway territory unrecognised by the international community located on the border between Moldova and Ukraine.
Russians make up almost of third of Transnistria's population and Moscow has a strong military presence in the region, which the Kremlin refers to as the “Pridnestrovian Republic”.
Rogozin warned that the pact's signature would also have serious consequences for the free movement of Moldovan workers in Russia as well as on the export of Moldovan goods to the Russian market.
Rogozin, the uncompromising former representative of Russia to Nato, said that the agreement in question was an “anteroom” where Moldova “may be kept rather long and twisted around the EU’s little finger”.
Similar messages were voiced last week by the leader of the unrecognised Pridnestrovian Republic, Yevgeny Shevchuk, who warned both Moldova and Ukraine that the region could be destabilised by a potential EU association process.
Discussions over the pact's signature will take place at the next Eastern Partnership Summit organised by the Lithuanian Presidency in Vilnius on 28-29 November.
The Transnistrian conflict is one of the four “frozen conflicts” in post-Soviet Russia. The breakaway province de facto functions as a state with an elected government, but gained very limited recognition internationally.
This is not the first time that Moscow has threatened neighbouring countries who want closer ties with the European Union. Last month, Russia tightened customs controls against Ukraine, imposing time-consuming border checks and even banning some goods, in reaction to the free-trade and association agreement negotiations between Kiev and Brussels.
A leaked document published last month, the authenticity of which could not be verified, indicated that Russia would deploy all efforts to prevent Ukraine from signing the EU pact and would back pro-Russian candidate at the next 2015 elections.
Russia has set up its own Customs Union, joined by Belarus and Kazakhstan, which the EU officials made clear was incompatible with EU association status.
Moscow’s methods are often seen as attempts to jeopardise the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit. The summit is expected to herald association agreements with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, and possibly the signature of one with Ukraine. These agreements include comprehensive free trade deals and aim at gradually liberalising the visa barrier between the two blocs.
However, Russian pressure may turn out to be counter-productive, analysts say. Speaking in Brussels last week, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a Ukrainian opposition leader, said Putin “deserves a medal for boosting Kiev’s chances of signing its association agreement with the EU”.