Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday (1 December) dismissed as “irresponsible” the proposal of Moldova’s president-elect Maia Sandu for Russian troops to leave the breakaway Transnistria republic.
Russian forces have been deployed to Transnistria — a narrow strip of land bordering Ukraine — since the pro-Russian region declared independence from Moldova in a brief civil war after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Transnistria is one of the ‘frozen conflicts’ engineered by Russia to prevent former Soviet republics to join the EU. One of the requirements for joining the Union is to solve all problems with the neighbours. Following the annexation of Crimea, the authorities in Transnistria asked to join Russia, triggering concerns over the region’s future stability.
Speaking on Monday at her first press conference since election victory, pro-European Sandu called for Russian troops to withdraw, saying “there never was an agreement from the Moldovan side” to their presence.
She added that Moldova has “long insisted” that Russian peacekeepers be replaced by civilian monitors under the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Lavrov said Sandu’s proposal will “hardly help the settlement” process and Moscow “will hardly be able to accept such fairly irresponsible demands”.
He added that “good relations entail the consideration of mutual interests and those agreements that have been reached earlier”.
Sandu, the 48-year-old former Prime Minister of Moldova, defeated the Moscow-backed incumbent Igor Dodon in the November presidential race, vowing balanced ties with both Russia and the West.
She is expected to take over the presidential office in late December.
Faced this year with protest movements in the former Soviet republics of Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, in Moscow’s traditional sphere of influence, Russia openly backed Sandu’s rival Dodon in the vote.