ua en ru

Transnistria may organize referendum on annexation to Russia - ISW

Transnistria may organize referendum on annexation to Russia - ISW Photo: In the unrecognized Transnistria, there may be plans for a referendum on joining Russia (Getty Images)

In the Transnistria region of Moldova, which is under the control of pro-Russian separatists, representatives of the unrecognized authorities may organize a fake pseudo-referendum on the annexation of the so-called Pridnestrovian (Transnistrian) Moldavian Republic to Russia on February 28, according to the American Institute for the Study of War.

Experts warn that an announcement about this may be made during the recently announced Congress of Deputies of Transnistria on this date in the Kremlin-controlled region, where approximately 470,000 people currently reside.

"The pretext for such a call would be the purported need to protect Russian citizens and “compatriots” in Transnistria from threats from Moldova or NATO or both," the ISW report states.

It is noted that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin could announce the annexation of Transnistria during his planned address to the Federal Assembly of Russia on February 29, although analysts consider this unlikely.

"Putin will more likely welcome whatever action the Transnistrian Congress of Deputies takes and offer observations on the situation," the report says.

In the Institute for Strategic Warfare (ISW), a corresponding assessment of the situation is offered as a warning of "a serious event with undefined probability."

"Moldovan government officials state that the situation in Moldova is unlikely to worsen as of February 22," experts added.

Russia's goals in Transnistria

The report also notes that the Kremlin considers the candidate status of Moldova in the EU unacceptable, much like it found Ukraine's Association Agreement with the EU in 2014 unacceptable.

"The Kremlin seeks to use Transnistria as a Russian-controlled proxy that it can use to derail Moldova’s EU accession process, among other things. The Kremlin historically has dominated Moldova’s geopolitical orientation through pro-Russian political proxies in Moldova’s government," analysts report.

Additionally, the Kremlin may also aim to use Transnistria as a "lodgment from which it can execute hybrid war operations against Moldova, Ukraine, and NATO."

"It may, finally, seek to destabilize Moldova using Transnistria in order to create a crisis on NATO’s southeastern flank. These objectives are mutually compatible," the report notes.

Придністров'я може організувати "референдум" про приєднання до Росії, - ISW

Situation around Transnistria

Transnistria is a region of Moldova along the left bank of the Dniester River. Historically, it was mainly inhabited by Ukrainians (Ruthenians) and Moldovans (Vlachs).

In 1990, with military support from the Russian army, the self-proclaimed Transnistrian Moldovan Republic was formed in the region. Internationally, only a few "states" with unrecognized separatist status, such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia, have recognized it. The capital of this "republic" is the city of Tiraspol.

In the 1990s, an armed conflict erupted between separatists and the Russian military on one side and Moldovan forces on the other, resulting in the victory of the separatists with the involvement of the Russian army. After this, Moldova lost control of the region.

Recently, Moldova's President Maia Sandu has not ruled out the possibility that in the coming years a "geopolitical opportunity" may arise to address the issue of the Transnistrian region.

It's worth noting that the Romanian General Staff believes that if Russia wins the war against Ukraine, the next target for the aggressor will be Moldova.

Also, Russia has been reportedly influencing voters who participated in local elections last November.