Hidden Motives of the Terrorist Attack in Transdniestria

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Sergei Cheban
Tiraspol reported the prevention of a major terrorist attack against the region’s top officials. If this information is true, this may suggest a change in tactics to undermine the situation on the banks of the Dniester
The Transdniestrian region continues to go through a cascade of escalations. A series of reports about military provocations being prepared on the left bank of the Dniester was followed yesterday by another piece of high-profile news from Tiraspol – this time about the prevention of terrorist acts allegedly planned against Transdniestrian top officials. According to the left bank investigative authorities, the explosions were plotted by Ukrainian Security Service employees. A car packed with eight kilograms of explosives with blocks of damaging elements was intended for the assassination attempt. Moreover, not only the Transdniestrian leader Vadim Krasnoselsky was to be killed, but also other high-ranking officials of the region, whose names were not disclosed. According to local media, the main perpetrator of the failed terrorist attack was a member of the Odessa territorial defense, with a criminal record in the past. A film with investigative details was shown on Transdniestrian TV in the evening, after which Krasnoselsky addressed the residents of the region urging them to remain calm. He also informed of the intention of the left-bank authorities to seek proceedings at a high international level. Apart from the 5+2 format participants, Tiraspol wants to report the incident to the members of the UN Security Council. Chisinau was predictably rather cautious in its reaction to this episode. The Reintegration Bureau stated that it did not have enough information, and urged to rely on official sources, as well as to wait for the results of the investigation by the competent authorities. For his part, Prime Minister Dorin Recean stated that there is no evidence of terrorist attacks on the left bank and that “Moldova is in stability and peace”, and there is no threat of escalation or risk of any problems in the region. We cannot but notice that the alarming reports from Tiraspol coincided with a series of terrorist accusations against Kyiv from the Belarusian leadership, as well as with massive intelligence reports in the Western press about the “Ukrainian trace” in the Nord Stream sabotage. The Ukrainian presidential office, rather than wait for further details and a more or less clear official position of the Moldovan authorities, hastened to deny any link to yet another terrorist act. The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) even dubbed Tiraspol’s accusations nonsense. A Ukrainian special service believes that they should be interpreted as a provocation orchestrated by the Kremlin in order to rock the situation on the Russian-controlled territory and to blame that on Ukraine. Despite the fact that the Russian media outlets actively spread the news about the neutralized attempted terrorist act, Russia has so far refrained from any official comments. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine that Russia would miss an opportunity to again criticize Kyiv, so it is very likely that it will play along with Tiraspol in its effort to appear on the agenda of the UN Security Council. Meanwhile, Moscow is probably now waiting for some kind of response from Washington and Brussels in order to better prepare its moves in the “Transdniestrian terrorist attack” case. It is worth recalling that in April-May of last year, there was already a series of incidents in the Transdniestrian region that could be classified as both military sabotage operations and acts of terrorism. Alas, no final and objective opinion on these incidents has been received. Even though these episodes were partly brought up within the negotiation process, the international partners did not show much interest in them. The only reminders of those events are the concrete blocks on some highways on the left bank, and the regularly renewed “yellow code” of the terrorist threat. Perhaps this time someone in Chisinau will realize that despite the dubiousness of such signals from the Transdniestrian administration, more attention should be paid to them in any case, at least to rule out the likelihood of a relapse. In just one day, the failed assassination attempt triggered lots of different versions, each of which in its own way can claim to be the most realistic. There is no doubt that the developments around Transdniestria over the past few weeks bear all the signs of a logical chain of events. Admittedly, not only Kyiv, but also the East and the West have forces seeking to destabilize the situation on both banks of the Dniester. Apparently, someone thinks that disrupting the situation in Moldova would help solve several longstanding bottleneck problems: from the Transdniestrian settlement to the removal of the Russian military from the region. However, in fact, the potential for detonating the “Moldovan issue” is so high that those who want to instigate a small regional cataclysm should study the history of the region to see what irreparable consequences a careless attempt to shake the fragile regional balance may have. A complex interplay of foreign policy, military, geographic and ethnic-national factors has probably convinced the hotheads that the linear “unfreezing” of the Transdniestrian conflict is not a simple story fraught with implications for everyone. Therefore, plans to physically eliminate the leadership of the Transdniestrian region could hypothetically be viewed as a change in tactics to achieve the previous strategic goal. This means abandoning military intervention in favor of a political coup in the region to retake control and influence from Moscow. Despite all the peculiarities of the situation and the specific narrative from Tiraspol, it is still difficult to believe that the region’s leaders went into this affair on their own in order to draw more attention to themselves. As the experience of last year’s spring showed, even the closest look of the world’s leading media outlets at Transdniestria cannot guarantee calm and confidence in the future. For all the image and political costs, our authorities should take such threats seriously. Certainly, we can further dismiss such incidents as internal squabbles in the region, or as fictitious. But ultimately it may end up being handled on entirely different levels where we will no longer have broad sovereign powers to somehow influence the course of events.