A defiance of a sovereign and independent state, that’s how Foreign Ministry officials from the Republic of Moldova described last week’s decision by the Russian Federation to open polling stations in the breakaway Transnistrian region, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent.
Transnistria is an unrecognized breakaway state located in the narrow strip of land between the river Dniester and the Moldovan–Ukrainian border that is internationally recognized as part of the Republic of Moldova.
The Russian backed region has been the bone of contention between Russia and the Republic of Moldova ever since Moldova gain its independence in August 1991.
The Russian federal election that took place at the end of last week reignited the debate over Transnistria, prompting Moldovan officials to react.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration regrets that, despite the position consistently expressed by the Moldovan authorities, the Russian side has acted in a manner that does not correspond to the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova and the bilateral legal framework”, officials in Chisinau said in a press release.
The press release issued by Moldavian authorities goes on say that officials called on the Russian side to refrain from opening the 27 polling stations in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova.
Moldovan diplomats “requested since July 30 that Russia not open polling stations in localities under the control of the constitutional authorities of the Republic of Moldova given also the impossibility of ensuring the necessary security conditions for the conduct of the election “, the press release shows.
Political pundits in the Republic of Moldova argued that the government avoided a harsher tone in relation to Moscow to avoid complicating the situation.
Speaking to EU Reporter, political science professor and expert on the former soviet region, Armand Gosu said that the election for the Russian Duma held on Moldova’s territory represents “indisputably a violation of the sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova. Moscow negotiated directly with Tiraspol (capital of Transnitria) the opening and operation of polling stations on the territory of the separatist republic, which amounts to not recognizing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova.”
Russia has in past got involved in organizing elections in the breakaway region of Transnistria. Despite protests in Chisinau, Russia has continued to increase the number of polling stations in the Transnistrian separatist enclave at every election in recent years.
In addition to Transnistria, Russian authorities opened polling stations in Chisinau, the capital city of Moldova, as well as the cities of Comrat and Balti. It is the largest number of polling stations opened by Russia outside its borders.
Russia has so far offered more than 220,000 Russian passports in Transnistria, which means that about two-thirds of the citizens living on the left bank of the Dniester are already Russian citizens. Yet, according to data by authorities in Transnistria, the turnout wasn’t rosy showing that only 27,000 people voted in the separatist region.
But for Transnistria, this election is about pleasing Putin.
“For separatist leaders, it is important to prove their loyalty to the Kremlin by delivering as many votes as possible for Putin's party”, Gosu told EU Reporter.
Armand Gosu also commented on the nature of the Russian election saying that “the elections in Russia are neither fair nor reflect the will of the electorate.”
The same view was shared by Pasa Valeriu working for the Moldovan based NGO, WatchDog.MD, who told EU Reporter that ”I can’t call what is happening in Russia as being an election. It’s nothing more than a sham. Therefore the question of a secure electoral process in Transnistria falls under the same category.”
Last week’s election in Transnistria for the Russian Duma was widely publicized by the local administration and its sponsored media.
It was portrayed as very important for the breakaway region and used to showcase Russia's decisive role, its help and support for the region. The reality paints a different story with Russia's assistance, as well as trade with Transnistrian, one of the poorest regions in Europe, steadily declining over the past years.
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