By Alina Radu
Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat says the only way to communicate with authorities from Tiraspol, in the Transnistrian region, is through the peaceful reintegration of Moldova.
“During my visits outside Moldova, I tell foreign partners about the problem of integration of the country. It is a difficult, long-term process,” Filat told media on Thursday (January 5th), while visiting a Transnistrian village.
Transnistria proclaimed independence more than 20 years ago, in September 1991. Despite the fact that this country does not exist on a map — and gained no recognition from any world government — this strip of land in Moldova is well known for its unsolved Russian-Moldovan armed conflict.
On December 25th, voters in Transnistria elected their second president.
The two main candidates were incumbent Transnistria President Igor Smirnov and Yevgeny Shevchuk. Shevchuk won, receiving almost 74% of votes in the second round of elections, in which more 50% of citizens participated.
During his inauguration on December 30th, Shevchuk promised to “defend the Transnistrian Constitution and independence”. Among those attending, the only foreigners were Russian guests, including Sergey Gubarev, who represented the Russian minister of foreign affairs.
Three days later, on January 4th, Shevchuk was in Moscow.
“I am very grateful that your first visit is to Russia,” said Serghey Ivanov, head of the Russian administration in Moscow.
Russian authorities are up front about their relations with the unrecognised Moldovan separatists.
“In the Russian Federation, we count on continuity of close contacts with representatives of Transistria,” says the office of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Shevchuk told SETimes his next international stop would be Kiev. When asked about talks with Cisinau, the Moldovan capital, he said, “It depends on the constructivism of the approach of Cisinau authorities.”
Grigory Valovoi, a local expert and leader of Transnistria human rights organisation Centre for Protection of Human Rights, says “I think Shevchuk will maintain the dialogue with Moscow, but communicate with Moldova too. Shevciuk is a modern politician. We cannot say there will be immediate changes, but he is different.”
Valovoi hopes for a change. Twenty years ago, he and Smirnov were officials in the Moldovan parliament, but they left with a group of pro-Russian members in 1990. Furthermore, Valovoi had criticised Smirnov’s decisions regarding human rights issues in the area. He thinks Shevciuk will better respect human rights.
Eleonora Cercavschi is head of the Association of Teachers from the Transnistrian Region of Moldova, and the director of a Romanian school in Griugoriopol. She also hopes that the new leader might symbolise a new beginning.
“We hope for a better attitude towards Romanian schools in Transnistria, and the rights of children and teachers. But I know that the final solution for our problem is not in the Tiraspol office, but in two other head offices: in Chisinau and Moscow. If those two leaders co-operate to solve this problem, then it will be solved.”
Ilia Cazac, an accountant from Tighina recently spent 20 months in Transnistrian jails, being detained illegally, without a ruling by a recognised court. He was freed last October, and now speaks about human rights in Transnistria.
He hopes for political changes and wants to feel free to go home to Tighina, where he was arrested.
“I hope that with the new leader, human rights will have a new dimension in the area. Shevciuk may bring some changes, despite the fact that there is a powerful opposition against him in the Tiraspol parliament. But he is young, has new ideas, and has shown that he may be influential. I hope at least for an improvement in the judicial system,” Cazac said.