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What is the Russian army doing in Transnistria?

As the Russia-Ukraine conflict completed its first year on February 24, tensions have been rapidly escalating in the Transnistria region of Moldova, which was once a classic example of a frozen conflict. Pro-Russian separatists are located in the region, and the government of Tiraspol, the largest city in the area, has long insisted that Transnistria is Russian and will eventually receive official recognition as such.

The region came under the spotlight after Russia claimed that Ukraine was preparing an “armed provocation” against Transnistria. 

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that “units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, including with the involvement of the ‘Azov’ nationalist formation” will open a new front by attacking this tiny breakaway region in Moldova. 

The Russian ministry went on saying the Ukrainian forces would masquerade as the Russian troops wearing Russian army fatigues and then enter Transnistria. 

Moldova, however, denied that Ukraine posed any “direct threat” to Transnistria. 

Russian presence in the region

In 1991, Moldova declared independence from the Soviet Union. Shortly after, Transnistria, situated on the east bank of the Dniester River, unilaterally declared independence with the backing of Russia. The declaration triggered armed conflicts between in the region, ending in a ceasefire on July 22 1992.

Transnistria has a Russian-speaking population in the majority. It has its own political structure, parliament, army, police, and postal system, despite being a landlocked region within Moldova. 

No UN member country has recognized the region yet. It is home to Russia’s largest arms arsenal from the Second World War. The depot is located in the village of Kobasna and Russian soldiers have been stationed there for several years. 

The soldiers serve primarily as a display of military might, with some participating in the Joint Control Commission between Moldova and Russia since 1992. The remaining soldiers are responsible for guarding the arms depot in Kobasna.

READ MORE: Russia warns US, NATO, Ukraine against ‘reckless steps’ in Transnistria

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