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How do the Russian forces in Transnistria get in and out of the region?

Transnistria is bordered by Moldova and Ukraine. "The Government of Moldova views the presence of these Russian troops as illegitimate." The Transnistrian government is a breakaway from Moldova that Moldova does not recognize. And Ukraine is not too friendly with Russia, as we know.

So, how do the Russian forces achieve supply and troop rotation?

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    The numbers of troops aren't huge. They could go by air?
    – James K
    Feb 18, 2022 at 12:12

2 Answers 2

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Predominantly through the airport in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova, although steps have been taken to reduce the number of troops that require rotation by employing Transnistrian citizens with Russian passports.

According to a January 2022 report from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, rotation is achieved by unofficially switching the assignments of Russian peacekeeping troops stationed in Moldova as a condition of the 1992 peace agreement.

The Russian military deployed on the territory of the Republic of Moldova is grouped into two categories: the Russian “peacekeepers” which should maintain the peace in the region since 1992, since the end of the Dniester War, and the military of the Russian Troops Task Force (GOTR). The latter, officially, have the mission of guarding the ammunition depots in the village of Cobasna, which housed about 20,000 tons of ammunition in the early 1990s. The depot is located a few kilometres from the Ukrainian border and is considered to pose a real danger to the region.

While the Russian “peacekeepers” are mandated on the territory of the Republic of Moldova, GOTR has no legal reason for its presence in the Transnistrian separatist region. Moreover, the de facto “pacifiers” and GOTR are one and the same force that only performs periodic rotation manoeuvres. Thus the “peacemakers” become GOTR soldiers and vice versa. In fact, Russia does not even bring its own soldiers, but rather, for years, has been recruiting Transnistrians. This is not even very difficult, given that more than 220,000 citizens of the Transnistrian separatist region also have Russian passports, accounting for about two-thirds of the total population on the left bank of the Dniester.

This echos some of the claims made in a 2016 report by the European Parliament's Directorate-General for External Policies:

Since 2014 Russian troops are no longer able to transit through Ukraine to Transnistria. Troop rotation takes place through the airport in Chisinau, which increases the Moldovan authorities’ influence on the presence of Russian soldiers. Thus, in order to maintain staffing levels of military units, Russia recruits more and more Transnistrian citizens with Russian passports.

Both reports also mention that since 2014, the OGRF/GOTR have increasingly relied on Transnistrian citizens holding Russian passports for recruitment, reducing the reliance on troop rotation from Russia. A 2020 report by the Robert Lansing Institute notes that "the representative of the TMR in the leadership of the JCC for peacekeeping operations, Oleg Belyakov, said that RTF will be fully staffed by Russian citizens residing in the republic."

With regard to supplies, a December 2016 report by the Swedish Defence Research Agency claims that these also transit through Moldovan territory after arriving in Chisinau by air. It notes also that limited troop rotation takes place through the airport:

After the Ukrainian parliament’s decision, in May 2015, to suspend all military cooperation with Russia, which also included cancelling military transit rights through the Odesa region to Transnistria, Russia was forced to transfer supplies by air to its base, through Moldovan territory. Although this has given the Moldovan authorities some more leverage in controlling the rotation of the Russian peacekeeping troops at the Chisinau International Airport, it has also led to some dissatisfaction with the Russian declarations. For instance, there have been cases where people have been entering as tourists, but then turned out to be a commander of a military unit.

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  • Thank you for the clear answer. But how do they get supplies in? An army needs a lot of stuff. And why does the Moldovan government tolerate this? The Russians pretend that the use of Chisinau airport is for the agreed-on peacekeeping forces, but can't the Moldovans challenge this lie?
    – Joshua Fox
    Feb 19, 2022 at 16:17
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I am not so sure that the Russian 14th Guards Army needs a lot of equipment. Their vehicles are already there. They have literally tons of ammo in place already. They recruit local Russian passport holders to be the soldiers. They probably need food (which they can buy locally), fuel (ditto), repair parts (which they can buy though third party front companies from former Warsaw Pact countries in eastern Europe).

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