06:09 GMT11 April 2021
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    On May 21 the Ukrainian parliament voted to suspend all military cooperation with Russia. The new law effectively terminated the 1998 agreement on the transit of Russian military units to Transnistria through the territory of Ukraine.

    Simultaneously, Moldova tightened the rules of transit for Russian military personnel traveling via Chisinau airport.

    Chisinau had periodically blocked and deported Russian soldiers who were not clearly identified as international peacekeepers or who had failed to give sufficient advance notice.

    Even though much cooperation was of course already suspended, throughout the current crisis Russia had been able to use Ukrainian territory to supply its peacekeepers in Transnistria, a narrow strip of land on Ukraine's western border. No longer.

    Russia’s response was quick and stern. 

    "The Ministry of Defense is left with no other option than to supply Russian forces with all the necessities by air bridge, with military-transport aircraft," Yuri Yakubov, a senior Russian MoD official, said after the Ukrainian vote.

    "The Russian contingent will be supplied under any circumstances," he added.

    Adding to Russia’s worries, the Moldovan authorities have reportedly been arresting and deporting Russian soldiers who try to fly into Moldova en route to Transnistria.

    Moldova hasn't stopped all Russian soldiers from traveling through its territory — only those not in the Moldova-supported peacekeeping mission, and only those who don't give a month's notice that they will be traveling to Moldova.

    Of the roughly 1,500 Russian troops stationed in Moldova, about 1,000 are in the Operational Group of Russian Forces in Moldova, which Moldova does not support; the rest are peacekeepers regulated by the Joint Control Commission, which includes representatives of Moldova, Transnistria, and Russia.

    Though small, the Russian peacekeeping contingent is a potent deterrent guaranteeing the security of the Transnistrian republic, because any outside attack on it will be interpreted as an attack on Russia itself.

    Still, the Moldovan transit ban means that the Russian contingent will shrink and may eventually cease to exist.

    This, in turn, could encourage Moldova to try to bring the breakaway region back into its fold by force.

    Kiev’s suspension of defense cooperation agreements with Russia and the Moldovan ban on the transit of Russian soldiers to Transnistria comes as NATO continues beefing up its military presence in neighboring Romania.

    The tensions mounting around Transnistria could easily spin of control and just how far the sides are ready to go in this standoff remains anybody’s guess…


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