FACTBOX-Moldova's Transdniestria focus of new concern after Crimea

by Reuters
Saturday, 29 March 2014 10:46 GMT

March 29 (Reuters) - In a phone call with U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin raised concern for largely Russian-speaking residents of Transdniestria, a separatist region in Moldova.

With Moldova pushing to seal a pact on closer ties with the European Union, NATO warned last week of a possible Russian military grab for Transdniestria following Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.

Following is a brief profile of Transdniestria:

* A tiny sliver of land on the Dniester river, Transdniestria declared its independence from Moldova in September 1990. The region is dominated by Russian-speaking Slavs, who pressed for independence on fears Moldova's Romanian-speaking majority would one day become part of Romania to the south, restoring the status quo before the Soviet Union took control in 1940.

* The region fought a brief war with Moldova in 1992 that killed about 860 people from Transdniestria and 460 on the Moldovan side before Russian troops intervened. At least 1,200 Russian soldiers remain and guard some 20,000 tonnes of Soviet-era weaponry and ammunition.

* Subsequent referendums inside Transdniestria have produced big majorities for independence and for joining Russia one day. Mediation led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has made little progress. Transdniestria has not been recognised by any sovereign state.

* The territory runs about 220 km (140 miles) down Moldova's eastern border with Ukraine and is 55 km (30 miles) at its widest point. Transdniestria has its own currency, police force and mandatory military conscription.

* Although it is home to just 550,000 people and occupies about one eighth of Moldovan territory, Transdniestria holds a significant share of Moldova's industry. Mostly Russian private investors own industrial companies including a steel plant and hydroelectric station. Some 50,000 Transdniestrians work in factories abroad, chiefly in Russia, and send home the cash that keeps the economy ticking over.

* The Sheriff chain, owned by an ex-KGB official, reaches into huge chunks of the private sector including petrol stations, supermarkets, a football team and stadium and the biggest brandy retailer, Kvint. Western governments say Transdniestria has become a "black hole" for smuggling arms, cigarettes and other contraband, something the region's leaders deny. (Reporting by Moscow/Kiev bureaux; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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