The Collapse of Moldova's Industrial Engine
Frozen in the darkest days of the Soviet era, Tiraspol is an island of absurdist propaganda, Lenin statues and fear. Its factories are closed, streets empty and dingy state stores bare. But this time socialism Politburo-style is not to blame. For Tiraspol is under siege, and the enemy is a criminal regime of alien occupiers that clings to power by fear and force.
Before the Soviet Union's collapse, Tiraspol was home to the Soviet 14th Army, which left behind 40,000 tons of weaponry, the largest arsenal in Europe.
At last count, stored in a complex of bunkers and berms and guarded by a skeleton crew of Russians are enough explosives to make two and a half Hiroshima bombs, tens of thousands of Kalashnikov assault rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition and huge numbers of antitank missiles, grenades and Scudlike rockets. Trans-Dniestrian factories may still produce weapons.
But Trans-Dniester is more than just the Wal-Mart of arms trafficking. Experts are concerned that terrorists -- or ambitious middlemen -- could find more sophisticated and dangerous things to buy. The Soviet military couldn't guarantee that all of the nuclear weapons had been removed. And hundreds of canisters of cesium-137, used by Soviet scientists to test the effects of nuclear war on plants, are unaccounted for. According to Russian documents I obtained, one 14th Army officer warned the Moldovans that in 1992 24 Alazan rockets in Trans-Dniester had been tipped with radioactive warheads.
December Rants 12-1 - 12-15
Conventional arms originating in Transdniester have been turning up for years in conflict zones from the Caucasus to Central Africa, evidence of what US officials describe as an invisible pipeline for smuggled goods that runs through Tiraspol to the Black Sea and beyond. Now, governments and terrorism experts fear the same pipeline is carrying nonconventional weapons such as the radioactive Alazan, and that terrorists are starting to tap in.
"For terrorists, this is the best market you could imagine: cheap, efficient and forgotten by the whole world," said Vladimir Orlov, founding director of the Center for Policy Studies in Moscow, a group that studies proliferation issues.
Why the Alazan warheads were made is unknown. The urgent question -- where are they now?
Organized crime figures and reputed terrorists flit in and out of the region, according to law enforcement and government officials in Moldova and US officials.
The enormous Soviet-style banners stretched across intersections in downtown Tiraspol bid visitors welcome to "The People's Pride: The Transdniester Moldovan Republic." The city is locked in a Brezhnev-era time warp. Nearly every corner bears a reminder of the regime's stubborn embrace of old-school Soviet communism: a statue of Lenin, a hammer-and-sickle banner, a street named for Karl Marx.
MAFIA IN UNIFORM: THE CRIMINALIZATION OF THE RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES
According to one report, representatives from Chechnya, Abkhazia, Crimea, Moldova, Lithuania, and assorted criminal groups showed up in Tiraspol (14th Army headquarters) in early May 1995 seeking ways to acquire a share of the weapons. This premature effort was in response to Lebed's anticipated departure before 14th Army dissolution, neither of which events may take place as supposed. While Lebed seems to be controlling the arms inventories under his charge for the time being, precedent suggests that long-term prospects for their continued protection are less than bright.
On the western side of the Dnjestr, a heavily guarded plot of land belongs to the PMR, the fortress Tighina (Bender), which is nowadays assumed to be a clandestine arms factory.
Itar-Tass: Dniester settlement tops agenda of EU official talks in Moldova
The Dniester settlement will be high on the agenda of EU Special Representative for Moldova Adrian Jacobovits’s first working visit to Chisinau on Monday.
The European Union does not take an active part in the talks between Chisinau and Tiraspol, mediators in which are Russia, Ukraine and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The appointment of Jakobovits confirms EU interest to its closest neighbours, EU foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana stressed. He said the main task of the EU special representative is to help the Moldovan leadership to reach progress in the process of peace settlement of the Dniester conflict.
The government needs to overhaul its agriculture-based economy and raise living standards to
be able start talks on closer ties with the EU, analysts say.
The Washington Times: Hotbed of weapons deals
Published January 19, 2004
TIRASPOL, Moldova -- The deal involved Europe's biggest Soviet army weapons cache, Russia's prime minister and the leader of a separatist enclave in Moldova known as a gunrunner's haven.
As described in a confidential 1998 agreement obtained by the Associated Press, Russia and Transnistria would share profits from the sale of 40,000 tons of "unnecessary" arms and ammunition stored in a weapons depot in the breakaway region.
[...] at least six factories are thought to be churning out grenades and rocket launchers, Makarov pistols and Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortar tubes and other relatively low-tech weapons under contract to the Russian military -- and possibly skimming off surplus production to sell to arms dealers, diplomats in the region said. Some, such as the Tochlitmash and Elektromash factories in Tiraspol, are thought to be dual-use plants, with civilian and secret military-production lines.
Moscow and Tiraspol, capital of Transnistria, would split profits from the sale of "unnecessary weapons, ammunition, military assets and materials," according to the 1998 agreement that bears their signatures.
[...] a Russian military document dated Oct. 18, 1994, urging "prohibition" of work with the warheads -- 24 ready to use, 14 dismantled -- because of radiation danger. Another document from May that year recorded the "burning and burying" of uniforms contaminated by radiation.
Moldovan police four years ago halted a truck leaving Transnistria. Inside were anti-aircraft missiles made in Russia, detonators and plastic explosives, members of Transnistria's army -- and Lt. Col. Vladimir Nemkov, a deputy commander of Russian peacekeepers in the enclave.
Although other officials denied the incident ever happened, Mr. Litzkai confirmed it, but suggested it was a setup.
Asked about Col. Nemkov's whereabouts now, Mr. Litzkai shrugged, then said after a pause: "He disappeared."
TARTAN ARMY'S NUKE ALERT
Mar 22 2004
THE Tartan Army were put on nuclear alert last night ahead of a World Cup clash in a war-ravaged crime capital.
Scotland will play Moldova just a few miles from a massive arms dump.
Thousands of tons of Russian weapons, including deadly nuclear arms, were left to rot in the rebel region of Transnistria.
Dozens of 'dirty bombs' have gone missing amid reports of radioactivity in the area. About 3000 Scotland fans are expected to defy the danger and cheer on Berti Vogts's Bravehearts at the match in Transnistria's capital,Tiraspol.
Drug smugglers and people traffickers are also rife in the area, which broke away from the rest of Moldova after a bloody civil war.
The foreign minister of neighbouring Romania branded the region a 'black hole of organised crime'.
Yesterday, Moldova announced it was suspending its part in th activities of the Joint Control Commission on leading th peacemaking operation in Transdniestr Region. The demarche wa caused by the authorities of the unrecognized Transdniestr Moldova Republic violating the agreements on free migration of people inside th Security Zone. The new conflict took place right before the GUUAM summi in Chisinau against optimistic statements made by Russian, Ukrainian and OSCE representatives regarding a possible resumption o negotiations.
The problem of free migration of people and freights within the Security Zone, becomes a regular subject discussed by the Joint Control Commission, when the season for field works begins. The fact of the matter is that seven Moldovan villages have properties on the left bank of Dniestr, which is the territory controlled by Tiraspol authorities. The whole border is lined up by Transdniesteria check-up posts, and farmers are charged export duty for transferring their produce through the border. Until fall of last year, farmers were able to solve this problem on an informal level or simply bypass the border.
However, in October 2005 Transdniestria’s authorities reinforced the borders, closed the by passing routes, and demanded that farmers should register at tax services of Transdniestria. The indignant farmers stormed JCC with letters and started protest movements near the check-points. Moldovan delegation called the check-points illegal as they violated the agreement “On Peaceful Regulation of the Conflict at Transdniestr” signed in 1992. Chisinau demanded that the check-points should be canceled or replaced by the peacemakers’ posts.
The United States is troubled by the ongoing, systematic harassment of Moldovan farmers from the village of Dorotscaia by Transnistrian authorities, U.S. diplomat David Kostelancik told the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) April 21.
Addressing the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, Austria, Kostelancik called for the Transnistrian leadership to accept and immediately implement the terms of a preliminary agreement reached with the Moldovan side at the April 19 Joint Control Commission (JCC), so as to allow the farmers to sow their crops before it is too late to take advantage of the 2005 growing season.
Peasants from Dorotcaia Picketed Russia's Embassy in Chisinau and OSCE Mission
April 26 2005
Peasants from six localities situated on the left bank of the Nistru within Moldova's jurisdiction protested on Tuesday in front of the headquarters of Russia's Embassy in Chisinau and OSCE Mission in Moldova. Inhabitants of Dorotcaia, Pohrebea, Molovata Noua, Cocieri, Parata and Cosnita villages from Dubasari district have sought from the Russian Federation through the agency of Embassy to use the influence it has on the authorities of the unrecognized republic and oblige them to respect human rights in the region from the left bank of the Nistru.
The peasants from those six localities that protested in front of the Russia's Embassy in Chisinau stated that in case the conflict is not settled in the next two weeks, they will picket again the respective headquarters on May 11, this time with farm technology: tractors, combines, seeders and others
Moldova Is for a New Type of Neighborhood
April 28 2005
Ukraine is pronouncing itself for the involvement of the US and EU in the negotiations on the Transdniestrian conflict, while the Republic of Moldova wants the extension of the negotiating format and with Romania's participation.
One session at the international conference "Moldova and Europe: drawing closer" which unfolded in Chisinau, was dedicated to the issue of frontiers and neighborhood.
Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Igor Dolgov stated that in Kiev's opinion, in order to peacefully settle the Transdniestrian conflict it is sufficient to attract in negotiations the US and EU. He also said that the proposals formulated by Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko on April 22 must be discussed by Chisinau and Tiraspol, with the assistance of Ukraine, Russia, OSCE, US and EU