In exchange for writing off debts for supplies of Russian gas to Transnistria totaling $100 million (out of the overall sum of about $400 million), Tiraspol will not hinder restarting of the process of scrapping and withdrawal of ammunition from the depots in Kobasna village. Moscow and breakaway Transnistria Moldavian Republic reached such agreement in late September. The first train with ammunition in 2002 arrived in Russia on October 4. The Uragan surface-to-surface missile launchers and a big quantity of 152-mm projectiles were withdrawn in 24 railway carriages.
Officers from the headquarters of the Russian group of forces in Transnistria explain that there are many dummy rounds among these projectiles, and they are badly needed now for combat training of the Russian Armed Forces. It was planned that after this, trains will be sent to Russia once every three days.
However, it is already the middle of October, and not a single train left the republic since October 4.
Meanwhile, about 40,000 tons of armament and ammunition should be withdrawn from Transnistria and scrapped by the end of 2002 in accordance with the deadline set during the OSCE summit in Istanbul in 1999 for withdrawal of Russian forces. Officers of the headquarters of the Russian group of forces in Transnistria report to WPS that the Russian party hopes that new negotiations will be held with the leaders of Transnistria soon and the issue of armament withdrawal and scrapping will be settled. The military says that it will be possible to withdraw the armament when the Russian command and authorities of Transnistria solve financial problems. As it has already been said, authorities of Transnistria agreed to let the train with ammunition through to Russia after Moscow had paid off $100 million of debts of the breakaway republic to Gazprom in September.
However, Stefan Chitak, military advisor to the President of Transnistria, says that the paid $100 million is compensation to the region for the property of the Russian Armed Forces that has already been withdrawn (Tiraspol estimates it at $1 billion). New negotiations of the Defense Ministry with the Tiraspol administration and new bargaining are ahead.
Meanwhile, mass media reported that General Anatoly Kvashnin, Chief of the Russian General Staff, “made a sensational decision to liquidate the operational group of Russian forces in Transnistria by the end of 2002. It is planned to leave only 500 of more than 2,000 servicemen there for the peacekeeping service.” But this is not quite true. Withdrawal of Russian forces from Transnistria is an international obligation of Russia. In November 1999, President Boris Yeltsin signed the agreement on adaptation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty during the OSCE summit in Istanbul. According to this document, Russia undertook an obligation to withdraw its forces from Transnistria by the end of 2002.
However, the Duma did not ratify the Istanbul agreement. Duma deputies put forward excessively stringent conditions for the ratification. They state that Baltic republics should join the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, especially if, during the summit of NATO in Prague in November, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are invited to join the North Atlantic alliance. Only if this demand is fulfilled will the bill on ratification of the agreement of 1999 be presented for voting.
After Central Asia and Transcaucasia Russia is losing its influence in Transnistria. It is difficult to understand the logic of Moscow, which in conditions of NATO eastward expansion withdraws its group of forces from the west. Moreover, Moscow’s position is not understandable because neither Chisinau nor Tiraspol insists on quick withdrawal of troops from the region.