Maia Sandu, the President-elect of the Republic of Moldova, called for the withdrawal of Russsian troops from the breakaway province of Transnistria during her first press conference.
Transnistria declared its independence from Moldova in 1990 and has been acting autonomously following a brief war in 1992. Since the end of the conflict, the region has maintained its own Government, Military and Economy but has seen no recognition by any current UN member state.
Tensions in the region escalated after Moldova’s decision to make Moldovan the primary language and officially adopt the Latin alphabet, while Transnistria has a large Russian and Ukranian population.
Russia’s 14th Guards Army was present in Moldova at the time of the 1992 conflict and were crucial in maintaining the autonomy of Transnistria. Since then Russian forces in the region were reorganised into the Operational Group of Russian Forces, and their numbers reduced between 1300-1500.
The OGRF has been operating in the area since 1995 and has faced opposition from the Moldovian Parliament, NATO and the UN General Assembly. Sandu has proposed that the Russian forces be replaced by a group of civilian observers from the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE).
The Russian government has so far ignored calls for the removal of its forces, claiming any change to the status quo could result in the destabilization of the region: “Russia performs a very important function…” Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters in late November.
Sandu defeated the current pro-Russia Moldovan President Igor Dodon in elections earlier in November 2020. The policy towards the breakaway region being a crucial issue in moldovan political discourse, as Sadu said late last month: “We are an independent country that does not want foreign troops to stay on its territory,”