RUSSIA WILL PROBABLY RESUME THE WITHDRAWAL OF WEAPONS FROM THE TRANS-DNIESTER TERRITORY

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It seems that Russia will soon resume the withdrawal of military property of the former 14th army from the Trans-Dniester territory. This situation has become possible in connection with Moscow’s statement that it is prepared to write off Tiraspol’s debt for gas worth $100 million in exchange for a permission to withdraw weapons. WPS received this report from a source in the administration of the Trans-Dniester republic. The source said: “The Russian government has approved of a draft agreement to write off part of the Trans-Dniester’s debt for gas. In response, Tiraspol must ensure the withdrawal of weapons and military hardware of the former 14th army from the republic.” According to his, Moscow intends to allocate $100 million to repay Moldovgaz’ debt to Gazprom for gas delivered to the Trans-Dniester territory. The source said: “In addition, it is intended that Kishinev will receive $5 million for repaying part of Moldavia’s debt to Russia.”

Problems connected with the withdrawal of military property from the Trans-Dniester republic appeared over ten years ago. Russia assumed international obligations to withdraw all weapons by the end of 2002 in 1999. However, almost nothing has changed since that time. In this regard, Moldavian President Vladimir Voronin and William Hill, head of the OSCE mission in the republic, recently discussed this problem. The meeting was held within the framework of preparations for the annual OSCE summit, which will be held on December 1-2. As is known, the OSCE intends to discuss problems of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldavia. Kishinev has already proposed to set out a new deadline.

It’s an open secret that the Moldavian leader is displeased by Moscow’s activities, and intends to speed up the withdrawal using the OSCE. Voronin proposes to internationalize the settlement of the conflict between Moldavia and the Trans-Dniester territory. European structures support him.

The OSCE president recently stated: “Moldavia will not have obstacles to the path to joining its eastern region – the Trans-Dniester territory – after the last Russian soldier leaves this region.” However, William Hill, head of the OSCE mission in Kishinev, doubts that Russia will be able to evacuate its weapons from the ammunition depot in the village of Kolbasnoye by the end of the year.

As far as military guarantees of the process of settlement of the Trans-Dniester problem are concerned, Mr. Hill stated after a meeting in Vienna that “this is a subject of negotiations, and it’s too early to speak of the replacement of peacekeeping forces in the Trans-Dniester territory”. He denied rumors that the OSCE decided to send an international peacekeeping contingent to the Trans-Dniester territory.

In the meantime, Vyacheslav Trubnikov, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister, has repeatedly stated that military-guaranteeing operations should be conducted in the Trans-Dniester territory, and Russia must play the main role in such operations. William Hill thinks that “military guarantees must be given by the OSCE”.

He said: “As far as military operations are concerned, they must be conducted by international peacekeeping forces.”

Tiraspol does not want to let the foreign military enter the region. Attempts to send foreign troops to the Trans-Dniester territory will lead to serious consequences. The defense minister of the Trans-Dniester republic already stated that “the army is ready to repulse an aggression”.

In the meantime, European structures’ intention to play the main role in settling the Trans-Dniester problem is natural. Russia’s position in this region is rather uncertain. However, the delay of the withdrawal of troops from the Trans-Dniester territory is an advantage for Moscow. Russia will remain in the region until it withdraws its ammunition. As is known, the withdrawal of Russia’s ammunition was suspended in mid-June. Around a third of ammunition had been withdrawn from March to June. The Trans-Dniester administration motivated its ban on the withdrawal of ammunition by the allegation that Russia failed to meet its financial commitments. Originally Russia promised to write off $100 million debt for gas. It seems that Russia will keep its promise. However, time has been lost. A simple analysis shows that Russia will not manage to withdraw its troops and ammunition by the end of 2003.

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