Andrey Devyatkov: The new president in Tiraspol: Reactions from Russia

The dramatic situation around presidential elections in Transnistria could not be left unattended in Russia. What do Russian stakeholders expect from the affecting victory of Vadim Krasnoselsky? To understand this a series of commentaries given by Russian politicians or key mass-media expressing semiofficially the Russian position should be analyzed.

A couple of arguments marks the official line. Firstly, Russian politicians continued to keep their neutral stance without explicitly blaming or praising none of the candidates. In their opinion, the Transnistrians voted for changes in face of deteriorated socio-economic situation in the break-away republic as actually it was the case in the context of 2011 elections as well. As it was pointed out, both candidates have committed themselves to a close relationship with Russia and to development of Transnistria. For example, the newspaper Vzglyad described how both Shevchuk and the company “Sheriff” contributed to renovation of old and construction of new buildings in Tiraspol, favored the establishment of new businesses in the service sector etc. Remarkably no statements were made about the background of the candidates, their activity in the electoral campaign. The argument that Transnistria will not face any radical changes after the elections can describe the general mood.

The only one thing characterizing the behavior of Evgeny Shevchuk was announced by the newspaper Kommersant which told by reference to its sources in the Russian government that a quite active Russian moderation was needed to prevent destabilization. This destabilization, so the sources of the newspaper, was possible due to the wish of security officials around Shevchuk to influence the results of the elections. They allegedly undertook some measures in this sphere but failed at the end.

Secondly, all the positions expressed have one idea in common: Vadim Krasnoselsky should deliver much to overcome the socio-economic crisis in Transnistria and for that he should use predominantly internal resources. The experts stressed in this regard that the victory of Krasnoselsky is a “solid advance” from Transnistrians which should be repaid by active work.

Furthermore, the deputy of the Russian State Duma Sergey Chizhov who was elected i.a. due to the support of the Transnistrian voters, argued: “The people of Transnistria see themselves as a region within Russia or as an independent state in the Customs Union. But in my opinion the accession to Russia is not possible in the short-term perspective: the republican budget should be balanced and entail no deficit. Besides, the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic should surmount the crisis”. Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Upper House of the Russian parliament, has also pointed out in his post on Facebook that “we will follow with much interest in the near future how Transnistrians will evaluate the ability of the authorities to address their multiple questions”.

In this sense the title of an article in the state-owned Rossiiskaya Gazeta was very telling: “So many problems – as clear as a day”. The journalist argues that there are factories in the region producing electromotors, cognac, textile but the logistic problems in exporting to Russia should be solved first. Besides, the author underlines that there are also doubts what else Transnistria could propose for the Russian market: “Even here, in Tiraspol, supermarkets are full of fruits from Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Moldova”.

In the opinion of Tamara Guzenkova, deputy head of the influential governmental think-tank Institute of Strategic Studies, Transnistrians voted for keeping the region within the Russian political space. She argued that adoration of Russia has become there a very popular profession and at the same time vocation. So, the new president should allegedly “convert this vocation into a practical course” because “people should not feel themselves as hostages of this love what is encouraged by Brussels and Washington while they tighten the screws being assisted by Chisinau and Kiev”. At the same time Guzenkova is probably the only one expert who explicitly declares how Russia should help Transnistria: through facilitated procedure for obtaining the Russian citizenship, consideration of time in employment by counting Russian pensions and ability to use “maternity capital” on the Transnistrian territory.

To sum up, the Russian agenda in relations with Vadim Krasnoselsky is not burdened by any misperceptions or negative prehistory. Russia evidently expects that the newly elected president will do his best to manage the socio-economic and political stabilization in the break-away region.

During the previous elections in 2011 one of the candidate could refer to his ability to attract a huge financial assistance from Russia which the winner of those elections got at the end too, but half as much. This time Russian assistance could not be a universal instrument for solving all the problems. As the last year has demonstrated, Russia is ready to contribute to a positive atmosphere in Russian-Moldovan dialogue and to realization of “small steps policy” in relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol. The OSCE summit also underlined the special status of Trasnistrian issue after all the mediators agreed on key aspects of the negotiation agenda. So, both internal and external contexts seem to be favorable in general for a pragmatic dialogue between two banks of Nistru river. But on the other side there are no prerequisites for any revolutionary changes around Transnistria because status quo is basically appreciated by most actors involved.