The Nistru armed conflict and its subsequent latent phase as well as the restrictions imposed on the import of Moldovan goods into Russia in different periods powerfully marked the Moldovan-Russian relations during Moldova’s independence period. IPN chose the most important events and phenomena that influenced the relationship with this once strategic partner of the Republic of Moldova, putting them on an eventual list of the Symbols of Independence.
The active military phases of the armed conflict in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova started on March 2, 1992. It was a military conflict between the Republic of Moldova and the separatist regime, installed in the self-proclaimed “Nistrean Moldovan Republic” that enjoyed the direct support of the Russian military deployed on the left side of the Nistru and of the Russian mercenaries who included the current Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin, who is also the special representative of the Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Transnistrian region. The battle was for control over the districts of Camenca, Dubasari, Grigoriopol, Rybnitsa, Slobozia and Tiraspol town, which are situated on the left side of the Nistru, as well as over Tighina town, which is located on the right side of the river.
The political conflict started in 1990, immediately after the declaration of the so-called “Moldovan Nistrean Republic”, whose latent phase still continues. The formal motive of the Transnistrian conflict was the adoption of the legislation whereby the Romanian language was declared official language instead of the Russian language that was the official language in the whole Soviet area until then and the concerns about a possible union of Moldova and Romania. In essence, two views on the further development path of the Republic of Moldova and its society collided on this territory after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. The battles on the Nistru claimed hundreds of lives among both of the belligerent sides.
The ceasefire agreement, called officially the Convention on the principles of the peaceful settlement of the armed conflict in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova, was signed by the then President of Russia Boris Yeltsin and the then President of Moldova Mircea Snegur in Moscow on July 21, 1992, in the presence of the Transnistrian leaders, who were all citizens of the Russian Federation. The agreement envisioned the immediate cessation of hostilities, creation of a “security zone”, constitution of peacekeeping forces consisting of Russian, Moldovan and Transnistrian soldiers. A tripartite Joint Control Commission was set up to monitor the implementation of the agreement. After this was signed, de facto 12% of Moldova’s territory remained under the control of the Transnistrian regime, the dispute turning into one of the frozen conflicts existing on the territory of the former USSR. Afterward, a multipartite negotiation mechanism called “5+2” was created. This included the Russian Federation, Ukraine, OSCE, the U.S. and the EU as mediators and observers, plus the representatives of Chisinau and Tiraspol, which have the status of “parties”.
On November 22,1999, the Istanbul OSCE Summit adopted a statement whereby the Russian Federation, as the successor of the Soviet Union, was obliged to pull out its troops that were deployed in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova in the Soviet period, until January 1, 2003. The statement provided that the party states welcomed Russia’s commitment to complete the pullout of its military forces from Moldova’s territory until the end of 2002. Russia withdrew 58 trains of equipment and munitions from Transnistria, but later decided that the pullout will be finished only after the Transnistrian conflict is politically resolved.
In July 2017, Moldova’s Parliament adopted a decision whereby the Russian Federation is requested to pull out its troops and munitions from the territory of the Republic of Moldova. This was the first official document to this effect adopted in the period of the Independence. In August 2017, the government of Moldova officially requested the UN to include the pullout of the foreign troops from the country’s territory in the agenda of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, which will take place at the start of next month.
Russia used the bans on the import of Moldovan products as an instrument in the bilateral relations as of 2005, when the Communist government reoriented the geopolitical options of Moldova from the East to the West, with considerable rapprochement with the EU bodies.
This instrument has been yet used more intensely starting with September 2013, when a real perspective of signing the Association Agreement with the EU appeared. Most of the bans are yet in force and refer mainly to such strategic export products as wine, fruit, vegetables and cans. Following the numerous restrictions imposed by Russia after 2005, the Moldovan companies reoriented themselves to the EU market. Currently, Moldova’s exports to the EU make up 63%.