The Russian army has no people to send without missing the other front lines

Lots of panics, but little danger. This is the conclusion of military experts on whether Russia is on the verge of opening a second front and involving another country in it – Moldova writes “Free Europe”.

The question arose around the Easter holidays. First, Russia said it would invade not only eastern Ukraine but southern as well, to reach two occupied territories by land – one is the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and the other is part of Moldova ruled by pro-Russian separatists – Transnistria. Two days after that speech, there were several explosions in the area – all at military sites and repeaters of Russian propaganda.

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Taken together, these facts led to the following conclusion in Ukraine and Western Europe: Russia itself provoked attacks in Transnistria to find an excuse to tear it away from Moldova once and for all. However, there is no way, experts say.

The Dniester River valley cuts in two the small territory of Moldova. From the right bank onwards is today’s free country, which until 1990 was part of the USSR. From the left bank to the border with Ukraine, there is a narrow and long strip of land that in the early 1990s did not want to secede from the USSR and was proclaimed an independent “Transnistrian Moldavian Republic” – Transnistria. It is not recognized by anyone, including Russia, but it has built its own “state” structures and is holding elections. According to Moldova’s constitution, Transnistria is its territory, but in fact, it is in the hands of separatists. In international negotiations, the region goes hand in hand with the term “frozen conflict” – in the same way as other lands occupied by Russia or by separatists controlled by it.

Symbols, currency, economy

In 2006, the “president” of the Transnistrian region issued a decree to synchronize local legislation with Russia’s “to further” the republic’s entry into the Russian Federation. The territory has no common border with Russia. Between the two is Ukraine. The TMR has two national flags – the old flag of Moldova from the time when it was part of the USSR, and the modern Russian flag. The national currency is the local ruble, which is accepted only on the spot. The capital is Tiraspol with just over 130,000 inhabitants.

Many people have two nationalities, mostly three: Moldovan, Russian or Ukrainian. They correspond to all three official languages ​​of the region. The population is about 420,000 in total. Most of Moldova’s large production facilities are located in the Transnistrian region. From there passes a gas pipeline that supplies Russian gas to Bulgaria.

Transnistria and the Russian army

The TMR maintains its army, but data on its numbers differ dramatically. According to some, it is about 8,000 soldiers, and according to others – twice as many. But the general opinion is that this military should be poorly or insufficiently trained to take part in hostilities.

In addition, there is a remnant Russian army and old Soviet military bases in Transnistria. Under a 1999 treaty, Russia was supposed to withdraw both by 2002, but that never happened. On the contrary, in 2011 Russia imported more weapons, former Moldovan Defense Minister Anatol Shalaru told Current Time. “In 2011, they brought five echelons with something we don’t know what it is, and the Ukrainians don’t know either, although it was Ukraine that released them at the time,” Shalaru said on Tuesday. He added: “Whatever this weapon is, it cannot be fought alone, it needs soldiers and trained officers to use it. And [Russia] has up to three hundred people trained in peacetime. ”

The number 300 is only approximate and is reached as follows: the Russian military in Transnistria is formally about 2000 and is divided into two – one guarding the base with Russian weapons, and the other is a “peacekeeping contingent” that should have become truly international. As this does not happen, Moldova manages to negotiate with Russia to replace the Russian military with local ones. This process has been going on for years and has led former Moldovan Minister Shalaru to conclude that the Russian Federation has trained up to 300 people. As for Soviet-era weapons, he says they are not valuable because they are old and some of them are out of order. “There’s even ammunition from the 1930s,” Shalaru said.

Can Odessa be attacked by the Transnistrian Moldavian Republic (TMR)?

The reason for this question is the statement of a gene. Rustam Minekayev, acting Commander of the Russian Central Military District. On April 22, he said Russia would attack territories not only in eastern but also in southern Ukraine to reach Crimea and Transnistria by land.

An attack on “Southern Ukraine” means the following – to conquer Nikolaev by land (Nikolaev), so that Odesa can be conquered from there. The second route to Odessa is by sea, but Russia has already lost its cruiser Moscow and its naval power has weakened significantly. The third way is to attack Odessa from the northwest, where Transnistria is located. This third possibility has an obvious connection with the plans outlined by the Russian general. Yuri Fedorov, a former analyst at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, says the plan would succeed on one condition – more Russian troops are sent to Transnistria.

But this is impossible, he told Radio Liberty – planes do not fly and the land is controlled by Ukraine. There is an option to send soldiers by plane on a bypass and land in the Moldovan capital Chisinau, from where they can reach the TMR by car. He has not finished his thought, but Russia needs too many troops in Transnistria to make such a move unnoticed. Oleksiy Arestovich, who is an adviser to the Ukrainian president’s office, rules out such a development for a completely different reason – not because there is no way to reach the TMR, but because the Russian army has no people to send without missing other fronts.

According to Arestovich, Medusa, and Fagin Live told Russia that it had about 90,000 troops in Ukraine and that the eastern front line from Kherson to Kharkiv alone was about 1,200 km long (with all the zigzags). With the addition of the southern front, which would include Odessa, this force is insufficient. Former Moldovan Defense Minister Anatol Shalaru, a TMR attack on Ukraine is possible, but only on one condition – if the Russian army has previously taken over Odesa. He ruled out the possibility of capturing Odessa itself with a base in Transnistria.

What is the whole thing about then?

According to Fyodorov, Russia is asking for a “second front”, but sees it not as a place to attack Odesa, but as a base for provocations on Ukrainian territory. “This would divert the attention of the Ukrainian army from the defense of Odesa and Mykolaiv,” he said. For Shalaru, Russia aims only to spread panic – in the nearby regions of Ukraine and in Transnistria itself, which has no interest in entering the war. “What they want to provoke here will not work,” he said.

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