Pro-Russian separatists in the breakaway region of Transnistria have asked Russia for "protection" from increasing pressure and an "economic blockade" by Chișinău. The discontinuation of customs exemptions for Transnistria at the start of this year has aggravated the situation there. Moscow has described the protection of the region as a priority. Is there a real threat of annexation?

Putin may repeat his Donbas strategy

Rzeczpospolita fears Russia will take the same approach as it did in the Donbas:

“The situation in the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic, which is not recognised by any state in the world, is becoming increasingly similar to that in Ukraine's Donbas region shortly before the Russian aggression in February 2022, when the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk called on Vladimir Putin to first recognise their independence and then 'accept them as part of the Russian Federation'. A repeat of this scenario in the Republic of Moldova in the next few days cannot be ruled out.”

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Second front unlikely

La Stampa doubts Moscow will intervene right now:

“The congress of deputies of Transnistria, Moldova's unrecognised pro-Russian entity, did not call for the Kremlin to take over immediately, as many local representatives and some international observers thought it would do. The assembly merely asked Moscow for 'help', without specifying what form that help should take. ... But it seems unlikely that Vladimir Putin would announce the annexation of the Moldovan enclave during his annual address today, opening a second front in his war to restore the Soviet empire.”

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Oligarchs will keep the Kremlin out

From an economic perspective, Transnistria has no interest in a Russian intervention, writes political scientist Laurențiu Pleșca in Agora.md:

“These rumours, often started by the so-called authorities in Tiraspol and amplified by Russian media channels, serve several purposes, but rarely have direct legal consequences. The reality is that the de facto administration in Transnistria, first and foremost the Sheriff conglomerate owned by Viktor Gușhan [a former KGB agent], controls political processes in the region. Gușhan's flourishing business in Tiraspol and the revenues he generates from exports to the EU run very much counter to any desire for the region to become part of Russia.”

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Unspecific demands

The separatists fear being forced into closer ties again with the Republic of Moldova for economic reasons, according to Deutsche Welle:

“In the adopted resolution, Tiraspol criticises Chișinău and tries to maintain the fiction of an 'economic blockade' by the constitutional administration in Chișinău and asks Russia for help without being precise about what it actually expects from Moscow. A few hours before the meeting in Tiraspol, the separatist regime's press wrote that 'the assembly will probably ask Russia to increase funding for Transnistria' to avoid having to join the Republic of Moldova. A short time later this information disappeared. ... It is also worth mentioning that the Russian flag was absent from the meeting in Tiraspol.”

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