By Burc Eruygur
ISTANBUL (AA) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday said that Moscow does not see any “separatist sentiments” in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria.
"Legislatively, punishment has been introduced for the so-called separatism. But we don’t see separatist sentiment in Transnistria; we see the Transnistrian leadership’s strong desire to comply with their commitments in the 5+2 format, and which are aimed at a full, mutually acceptable settlement of Transnistria’s status," Lavrov said during an interview with Russian state news agency TASS.
Last month, Russia claimed that Ukraine is preparing an "armed provocation" against Transnistria, an unrecognized breakaway region internationally recognized as part of Moldova but currently controlled by pro-Russian separatists. In response, Moldova’s government announced that it did not confirm the claims.
Earlier this month, the leadership of the breakaway region accused the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) of carrying out an attack on its leadership and said that the attack had been thwarted. The SBU declared the claims as "nonsense", saying they are "a clear goal of Russia to destabilize the situation in the territory that is actually occupied and under its control."
Lavrov also claimed that the 5+2 format of meetings on the issue were frozen due to "the policy of the West which decided to take the ‘settlement’ into its own hands, impose this settlement on Tiraspol, and fully support the confrontational, short-sighted, dead-end policy of (Moldovan) President (Maia) Sandu.”
The 5+2 format is a diplomatic platform on finding a solution on Transnistria established in 2005. The format involves Moldova and the leadership of the breakaway region, as well as Russia, Ukraine, the US, the EU and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Talks in the format have frozen since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Lavrov claimed that Ukraine also played a negative role on the situation surrounding the issue by siding with Moldova, which he claimed to be “in violation of its mediator status in the 5+2 format.”
“Kyiv authorities support its (Moldova) belligerent, destructive policy towards Transnistria, dig defenses, fortifications between Ukraine and Transnistria and demonstrate in every way its readiness to interfere in this process, including with the use of force," Lavrov further claimed.
"I would like to reiterate that Russia is fully responsible for the security of Transnistria in full accordance with the mandate that our troops have. We will be guided by this mandate," Lavrov added.
- No talks present between Russia-US on New START Treaty
Lavrov touched on relations with the US, saying that there currently are no contacts between Moscow and Washington on the New START Treaty, which Russia announced it suspended its participation to on Feb. 21.
In this regard, Lavrov said that Russia’s readiness to maintain the caps set under the treaty is nothing but a “goodwill gesture”.
"We suspended our participation in that treaty completely. Our readiness to preserve the caps on strategic offensive arms set in the treaty is nothing but a gesture of goodwill," Lavrov said.
Lavrov claimed that Washington’s comments on Russia’s suspension of its participation in the New START Treaty are “null and void.”
"They submit notes to us, they protest and say that we have no right to take the decision we have taken. These are legally void arguments," Lavrov said.
The US State Department claimed in a statement on March 15 that Moscow’s decision to suspend its participation in the New START Treaty is “legally invalid” and that it is still bound to the treaty’s, while also defining the decision as “unfortunate and irresponsible steps.”
He also said statements from Moscow have underlined that the US has “undermined the fundamental principles communicated in the treaty and enshrined in the preamble, in which it is written that Russia and the US would develop cooperation based on mutual trust and respect.”
"There is no need to assure anyone that these principles have been violated and discarded by the current US administration," he said.
He further said that the US has to “return to civilized principles of international relations, first and foremost, including the principles cemented in the New START Treaty” in order for Russia to restore dialogue with Washington.
"But, so far, we have not seen any signs that the US is ready to even consider the need to return to the source, cemented, as I’ve said it already, in international legal documents - primarily, in the UN Charter," he added.
Signed in 2010 and extended in 2021 for another five years, the New START Treaty aims to control and reduce strategic nuclear forces used by the US and Russia.