Why Weapons Depots in Transdniestria Are Continued to Be Spoken About

Home / Analytics / Why Weapons Depots in Transdniestria Are Continued to Be Spoken About
Unrecognized Transdniestria has a large depot of old Soviet weapons. A dangerous facility is located near Cobasnavillage at the border with the Odessa region. People of the near Ukrainian villages used to have to such a neighbourhood, but they firmly know that if it will “go off” there'll be hell. The depots are guarded by Russian soldiers, who were supposed to leave the legal territory of Moldova and take out the explosive Soviet legacy as far back as in 2000s. Since then, the leaders of Moldova have tried unsuccessfully to expel so-called “Operative Group of Russian Troops”. The former arsenal of the 14th Russian army was discussed in September by vice-premiers and foreign ministers of Moldova and Ukraine. It was decided that “the Russian ammunition depot in Cobasnais a threat to the safety and the ecology of Moldova and Ukraine.” Those who follow the longstanding conflict on the Dniester know that the “Transdniestrian threat” is an eternal horror story to be usually recalled for some purpose. It is clear that today such a goal is an election. The closer presidential race in Ukraine, the more oftenTransdniestria will be recalled to frighten the society. And the Russian ammunition depot is the most convenient “scarecrow” which can be used while requiring for international support and getting tough on Transdniestria. At least, this model is successfully implemented by the Moldovan authorities, and Ukraine is learning how to use it. Moreover, the Don Quixote fight against the self-proclaimed “PMR” can be profitably “sold” to the population as part of a hybrid war against Russia. The most radical part of our society will surely fall for it. However, politicians in Kiev have a quite prosaic motive to recall the danger of ammunition depot in Transdniestria. Their aim is to distract the international community from “beam in own eye.” Unfortunately for the high-ranking officials, the attempt turned out to be extremely untimely, because on October 9, another ammunition depot exploded near Ichnia in Chernihiv Regionalthough the Russian troopswere not detected in the near. Of course, everyone forgot about the “Transdniestrian threat” against this background. But there is something to remember about the infamous history of weapons storage in Ukraine. Ammunition depots in Ukraine: catastrophe chronicle Where ammunition is stored in Ukraine In 2008, there were 37 large explosives and ammunition depots in Ukraine with totally 133 thousand tons. These facilities were dangerous not only because of the death threat to local residents from explosions and wounds, but also because of potential emissions to the atmosphere of chemicals which are hazardous to health. As it turned out later, even 10 years ago, the real scale of the problem was unclear – for many years, weapons depots in Ukraine have been blown up one by one. As it turned out after the incidents, more than 400 thousand tons of ammunition were stored only in depots at Lozova and Balakliiain Kharkiv Region and Kalinovka in Vinnitsa Region. For comparison: according to various sources, the notorious Cobasna depot in Transdniestria contains not more than 20 thousand tons. Before the Dignity Revolution, the authorities of Ukraine called negligence and violation of safety rules as the main reasons for the explosions, and after the Revolution they explained similar emergency situations as sabotage by Russia. However, people of the country have an opinion that ammunition depots explode only in order to hide massive theft of ammunition. Soviet ammunition depots in Ukraine are mainly in open areas. There is no financing for the construction of bunkers; therefore, Ukraine began to solve the issue by quickly disposing of a dangerous inheritance. This is also costly: in 2015, 10 percent of the necessary funds were pledged for these purposes, and this amount was enough to destroy only 9 thousand tons of ammunition. Liquidation was also carried out at the expense of international assistance by the NATO Trust Fund for the disposal of excessive volume of ammunition. Paradoxically, in Ukraine, detonation of ammunition depots is still coping with the task of destroying ammunition much better than any national program. Moldavian weapons worldwide It is already clear that it will be difficult for Kiev officials to present weapons depot in Transdniestria as a threat since explosions are regular in their native country. In neighbouring Moldova, the situation is also “piquant”. In July 2012, the media got secret information that 80% of large-calibre weapons and ammunition in Moldova are out of service. Then-Minister of Defence Vitalie Marinuta promised the disposal of obsolete weapons and shells before the end of 2013. “The state has no money for recycling. But we will unite the efforts of the government and international organizations,” assured the Secretary of the Supreme Security Council, Alexey Barbeneagre. At the same time, it was decided that weapons depots should be moved outside the cities to ensure the safety of residents. At that time, the Moldovan Ministry of Defence had five large arsenals. Later, the Moldovan Ministry of Defence reported that, in cooperation with the Norwegian NGO, they processed 90 tons of ammunition manufactured in the 60-80s of the 20th century. The plans were to dispose of another six hundred tons of obsolete weapons. The OSCE provided some assistance in transporting ammunition depots: the field mission of the organization in Moldova paid for the design of the storage facility away from Chisinau, where ammunition depots were(or maybe still are there) also located in the centre of city. Loud promises by Marinuta soon turned into loud scandals. As the media became aware of the sale of 50 tons of obsolete ammunition to Armenia through intermediaries from Latvia. Through other non-transparent schemes, Moldovan weapons were made available to Libyan extremists at the height of the civil war in this country. The cases of theft of military property and even military weapons have become frequent. According to available information, funds for the disposal of obsolete ammunition in Moldova were mainly provided by Germany. One of the reasons for assistance was improvementof the ammunition storage conditions in some depots within Moldova. However, later the financing of the projects was curtailed:donor money was used inefficiently both in Moldova and Ukraine and was often settled in the pockets of officials. As a result, in 2016, the European Union simply allocated 93 thousand euros for the construction of a barbed wire fence around the weapons depot near Bulboaca village in order to deny access ofstrangers to the area of a possible explosion. And what about Cobasna, namely? In February 2006, a joint delegation of the Security Councils of Russia and Ukraine inspected the weapons depot facility at Cobasna. Following the results of the inspection, the deputy secretary of the Security Council of Ukraine, Serhiy Pirozhkov, stated: “Unauthorized removal of weapons from Cobasna is impossible because of a strong guard. I have no fear that unauthorized persons can get there, not to mention any terrorist elements.” It is curious that later Serhiy Pirozhkov will spend 8 years as Ukrainian Ambassador to Moldova. Kiev certainly realizes situation with weapons depots in Transdniestria. though, Odessastill need to fear since being not aware of the level of escalation with regard to the situation around this depot which can be reached by domestic politicians before the elections. It's black and white that our Ukrainian ammunition depots is the real danger, they are large, and they continue to explode.