MOSCOW (AP) — The foreign minister of Moldova's separatist Transnistria region said Friday that it is committed to achieving independence and possible unification with Russia, and that Moldova's becoming a candidate for European Union membership effectively ends any possibility of cooperation.
Transnistria, a sliver of land lying between Ukraine and the rest of Moldova, has hosted a contingent of Russian peacekeeping forces since the 1992 end of a separatist war. Since Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February, speculation has risen that Russia would aim to take control of the territory.
In April, a series of explosions in the territory of 470,000 people caused tensions to soar.
Vitaly Ignatyev, the unrecognized government's foreign minister, told a news conference in Moscow that Transnistria will pursue the goals determined in a 2006 referendum: “The independent development of Transnistria and the subsequent free entry into the Russian Federation. ... The subsequent free accession to Russia is a process that probably requires significant decisions, political preparation and much more. The main priority, obviously, is independence.”
Moldova is constitutionally neutral and thus not a potential NATO member, but is showing a growing Western orientation. In June, the EU granted it candidate status, with full bloc membership conditional on reforms such as tackling corruption and strengthening rule of law.
“Having received the status of a candidate for EU membership, Moldova has thus crossed a certain Rubicon," Ignatyev said. “It put an end to the issue of building political relations within certain common spaces, because this decision was made solely by the Moldovan leadership, it was not taken collectively. Moreover, no one can speak for us.”