Eugen Străuțiu: Security Politicies and Institutions in Transnistrian Region

Context

            After the end of the military operations of 1992, the Transnistrian region has seen a systematic process of creating and strengthening the State institutions. Although not recognized under the international law, the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic (as the separatist authorities call their institutional architecture) has created “de facto” institutions representing the sovereignty’s attributes: customs control, population records and passports, its own currency, a Ministry for Foreign Affairs, military and police bodies and security services.

            In this context, security is the angular stone of assertion of State claims of the Transnistrian region. What are the stage, logic, significance and performance of the institutions providing security in the region? How much are they shape and how much are they content? What are the values they protect and impose and what are the risks/threats/vulnerabilities they want to prevent and eliminate?

            This topic has been the subject of specialized analyses only incidentally and partly on issues suggested by the acuity of certain security events in the region. The effort must basically be started from scratch, and this study can only be a modest start in a direction that will necessarily require further development – without ever being fully completed, maybe just because of the secret nature of certain missions, actions and institutional structures, typical anytime and anywhere of a security system.

Security framework laws

            Security Law, as published in the latest version on the website of the Supreme Soviet in Tiraspol[1], aims to provide the legal basis for the “safety of individuals, the public and the State, defines the security system and its functions, establishes an order of organization and financing of security agencies and the supervision of their activities’ legality”.

            According to the first art., security is defined as “the protection of vital interests of individuals, the public and the State before the foreign and domestic threats”. The same article sets the fundamental goals of individual security (rights and freedoms of the individual), of public security (material and spiritual values – without being listed, A/N) and State security (constitutional system, sovereignty, territorial integrity and property). There is an evident confusion in the attachment of the property value to the State domain – not to the private sector.

            The security system is defined in art. 8 as “the legislative, executive and judicial authorities, the State, public organizations and associations and of another nature, the citizens participating in security operations in accordance with the law and the legal regulations in the field of security. The creation of security agencies which are not authorized by the law of the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic is not allowed”.

            An extensive definition of security attracts attention, virtually encompassing the entire politico-socio-economic field, which can easily cause confusion by the proclamation of any social event/process as a security event – and by placing the whole society under the authority of the security institutions themselves. Secondly, the outright delimitation from the law and security structures of the Republic of Moldova, which are prohibited by law, is apparent – with the useless shade that they would be approved by a subsequent law.

            Art. 10 details the responsibilities of the State powers in the design and implementation of security, as follows:

– The Parliament has legislative control over the implementation of security legislation; it approves the principles of national security and military doctrine; it approves presidential decrees introducing the state of emergency, the economic state of emergency or the martial law; it discusses and approves the budget of the security agencies; it ratifies, approves or terminates international treaties concerning security.

– The President sets out the main security policy directions; he organizes and ensures the implementation of security legislation; supervises Government activities in the field of security, being responsible for the work of the security agencies and forces; reorganizes and liquidates the security agencies; outlines the principles of national security and military doctrine to send them to Parliament for debate; sends proposals to the Parliament relating to the budget of security agencies.

– The Government ensures the implementation of security legislation; develops and implements the principles of national security and military doctrine; carries out actions in order to maintain the individual, public and State security; carries out security actions by its subordinate departments.

– The legal system ensures the protection of the constitutional system; administers justice in order to combat crimes to security; ensures the legal protection of citizens, the public and its organizations.

            The management of security agencies and forces is ensured by the President (art. 11), who controls and coordinates the activity of the security agencies and makes emergency decisions to maintain security.

            The forces and the means to maintain security are established as follows: the armed forces, security agencies, internal agencies, security agencies of the legislative, executive and judicial authorities and of their senior officials, their internal taxation service; the emergency services, civil protection units; border police and interior forces; the institutions providing occupational security conditions in industry, energy, transport and agriculture; the services providing the security of communications and customs information, environmental protection agencies, public health agencies and other government agencies established by law. All these forces and agencies are entitled to use force in the performance of their duties.

            The control of the legality of the work of the security agencies is provided by the Prosecutor of the TMR – which differs fundamentally from the democratic procedures enshrined, where this function is provided by the Parliament. In practice, this procedure may lead to the covering of security agencies’ side-slips.

Security forces and agencies and internal order

             The Ministry of Interior is relevant to the national security law through the Police Law[2] and the Law of Internal Troops. Procedurally, significance is placed on the Law relating to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.[3]

            Police Law states its main task (art. 2) as “the protection of public order and public security, the protection of the legitimate interests of citizens and organizations, measures to prevent, prohibit and solve murders and other crimes (…). The police is made up of the criminal police, public security police (local police) and special police (art. 9). Police powers are the ordinary ones in any State, as detailed in art. 13, in 33 different points. The use of physical force and special means and the rights and obligations of the police officer are covered.  

            The right to receive housing within three years of service, preferential loans for special housing, bearing up to 50% of the price of the housing purchased from the budget, reducing by half the rent and tariffs for all utilities, preferential places in kindergartens for police officers’ children (art. 33-36) are unusual for a democratic State.

            Transnistrian police is organized in seven districts: Tiraspol, Bender, Slobozia and Slobozia area, Dubasari and Dubasari area, Grigoriopol and Grigoriopol area, Rabnita and Rabnita area.  The General Department for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption, the Department of Internal Security, and the passports, driver’s licenses and identity cards services are organized distinctly.[4]

            The Law of Internal Troops[5] defines the internal Forces as “an integral part of the military organization of the State, designed to ensure individual, society and State security, to protect the rights and freedoms of the humans and the citizens from unlawful criminal deeds and form other deeds”.

            Internal Forces are subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice. They are responsible for the participation in the protection of public order and security and emergencies; the protection of the prison system and the escorting of prisoners and persons in custody; the protection of important State and economic objectives; the participation in the territorial defense of the TMR; the participation in combating terrorism (art. 2 para. 1).

            The staff is made up of military and civilian employees (art. 10 para. 2). The military service in the Internal Forces is a special type of public service, which is correlated with the prohibition of being part of political parties and associations with political purposes (art. 11 para. 10). Internal Forces are classified as follows: a) for operational purposes, b) special motorized units, c) for the protection of the prison system and escort, including special units, d) for the protection of important economic and public installations, e) with special purpose, f) for protection and training (art. 13 para. 2).

            It is worth mentioning the organization and the activity of special purpose units, participating in the disarmament and elimination of illegal armed groups, organized crime groups, suppressing riots accompanied by armed violence, the withdrawal of illegally held weapons, the suppression of terrorist acts, combating persons who carry out kidnappings or affect essential public utilities (art. 17 para. 1).

            The Ministry of the Interior has the following armed structures: “Dnestr” Special Forces Battalion (500 people); “Cobra” Internal Forces Battalion (200 people), deployed in Parcani; seven divisions of the militia (1,900 people); “Pervomaiski” Patrol Brigade (150 people); Parcani Patrol Brigade (150 people). The staff of the Ministry of the Interior in Tiraspol amounts to 2,900 people armed with a single weapon. The stock of small weapons and light weapons in the Transnistrian militia depots is unknown[6].

            The Ministry of State Security was established by the Presidential Decree no. 128 of May 16th, 1992 “on the Republican Security Office”[7], and operates based on a coherent legislative complex formed subsequently, of which we mention the TMR Security Law, The Law of national security agencies, the Law of operational and investigation activities in TMR, the Provisional Regulations on the protection of the State border of TMR.[8]

            In January 2012, following a restructuring of the Government in Tiraspol, the new leader of the regime Yevgeny Shevchuk has turned the Ministry of State Security (MGB) in the State Security Committee (KGB)[9],while retaining direct subordination to the President and the previous legislative powers[10].

            In this structure, the KGB is the centerpiece in the public security system, as a unit made up of departments and directorates. Add the Offices or the commissions acting by cities and regions; the Committee of armed forces, other troops and formations (it carries out military intelligence activity, providing informative activity fir the Armed Forces, Border Guards, Internal Forces and other legal military formations), the Committee of border bodies and units (it provides the protection and security of the units with duties at the border) and the Special Operations Unit[11].

            In this organization, TMR intelligence assumes the following main tasks: information, counterintelligence and border operations, combating organized crime, terrorism and extremism, and information security[12].

            Who are the MGB opponents? In the words of Antiufeev, as stated at the 21st celebration of the creation of the separatist State, “The opponent’s special services are acting against us in permanent regime – information and security service of Moldova, military intelligence service of the Defense Ministry, the Romanian foreign intelligence service. However the generator core of the campaign is represented by the special Western services – primarily those of Great Britain and United States of America, including from the position of their diplomatic missions”.[13]

            image of defensive structure that MGB creates for itself in the media is contradicted however by other analyses, such as that of Teodor Carnat (ex-director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Moldova) who states that the “Transnistrian MGB is much more developed than our SIS. They are more devoted to Shevchuk and Smirnov – because they are paid. If the master orders information – they do it. Half of our SIS work for the Transnistrians, selling information to Transnistria, but also to the Russian FSB, which controls the MGB”.[14]

            Among the actions significant for the style and effectiveness of MGB/KGB, published in the written or electronic media we should note the following:

          The arrest and investigation of the Moldovan journalist Ernest Vardanyan, accused of spying on behalf of the Republic of Moldova (2001 onwards). MGB has released a video in which the Moldovan journalist admits the charges – a fact incriminated by the Information and Security Service of Chisinau as “disinformation and repressive tactics”[15]. Vardanyan was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison.[16].

          The arrest of Ilie Cazacu, tax inspector in Bender, who denounced himself as agent of the Information And Security Service of Chisinau , through a written statement[17].

          The arrest of two Russian journalists employed by the NTV television station[18], who had been working on a documentary on the pre-election situation in 2011. They have been beaten and their documents, money and personal property have been seized[19].

Starting with 2013, we see a trend of the Transnistrian KGB to take political action in the field of security, substituting the presidential powers as supreme head of State security. Press releases published by the KGB on its own website are repeated on multiple occasions (in the absence of any presidential public attitude), which presents security assessments, serve summons, and explain the reasons of certain security activities and projects. Thus:

          On January 21st, 2014, KGB accuses the head of the OSCE mission to Moldova of bias in the presentation of the report for the plenary meeting of the OSCE Permanent Committee of November 21st, 2013, and tendentious analyses presented at the meeting of the Joint Control Commission of December 5th, 2013. As a result, the Transnistrian KGB announced traffic restrictions for the members of the OSCE Mission to Moldova – with the exception of the Mission’s members working in the Joint Control Commission and the head of the Mission[20].

          In February 2014, the Transnistrian KGB summoned the Government in Chisinau to withdraw from Bender the force structures, the subdivisions of the Police Inspectorate and “Registru” IS CRIS, as well as other public authorities of the Republic of Moldova. The request received a negative response, by political means and with political method.[21]

          On February 18th, it takes public position against the action of the Prosecution of the Republic of Moldova to initiate criminal proceedings against the officers involved in the detention and investigation of the Director of “Lucian Blaga” High School of Tiraspol, Ion Iovcev.[22]

Through such actions and public positions, the Transnistrian KGB leaves the impression that it subordinates political institutions responsible for security, which also have the power and ability to negotiate – taking security issues directly on the ground of force, secret and punitive actions.

Another significant trend in the activity of the Transnistrian KGB that reveals itself from browsing the recent news published on the agency’s website shows operations and activities that interfere or substitute the powers of police: documenting a case of Professor who receives bribes, identifying a criminal group selling prostitutes, the arrest at the customs of some people who had 200 narcotic pills on them, halting a contraband attempt with 420 bottles of spirits[23].

            In terms of military capability, the Ministry of State Security subordinates the “Delta” Battalion (which can be completed, in case of necessity, with up to 2,000 – 2,500 people) and the border guard brigades in Tiraspol, Camenca, Rabnita, Dubasari, Grigoriopol, Tighina and Slobozia and 44 border stations, which protect the 816 km of border with Ukraine and Moldova. The information on the volume of weapons of the Security Ministry forces in Tiraspol is not made public.

            These forces may be accompanied, in case of security necessity, by the 10th Regiment of Don Cossacks, subordinated to the Cossack Army of the Black Sea. This structure is deployed in seven localities (Tiraspol, Camenca, Rabnita, Dubasari, Grigoriopol, Tighina and Slobozia) and probably has 1,000 – 1,500 people (36 people are permanently based in Tiraspol). The armament of the Cossack Regiment remains unknown to political and military analysts[24].

A few conclusions

            Security sector organized by the separatist authorities on the left bank of Dniester is complete and functional, with principles similar to the security sector of an internationally recognized State. All the usual security institutions are present and active, based on legislation borrowed and very little adapted to the Russian Federation legislation.

            What distinguishes the Transnistrian security sector is the priority given (more in fact than in the norm) to the intelligence services activating until recently under the name of the “Ministry of Security” and recently – the “Security Committee”. The fact that the intelligence services had, almost for the entire existence of the separatist State, the organization and legal status of a ministry shows an over sizing of its role and institutional organization.

            It is a situation explicable through external and internal factors. First, the geopolitical position of the separatist region (surrounded by large States in connection with its own potential, with a vast border in connection with a small territory), calls for the over sizing of customs control activity –not just in terms of trafficking of persons and goods, but also for preventing security threats related to organized crime and terrorism.

            Secondly, the separatist regime is bound to a strict control over the society, which does not have uniformity and is characterized by economic interest groups, ethnic groups with different values naturally gravitating towards Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, low standard of living for the majority of the population (hence the massive emigration phenomenon).

            Finally, the separatist regime is in a state of conflict (“frozen conflict”) with the State from which it seeks final separation. Surely, the opposite option of Chisinau is equally impressive, and the means Chisinau has in pursuing the reunification scenario are diverse and strong. The separatist security is trying to deal with them.

            Against this reality, the Transnistrian KGB is almost compelled to turn into security issues a whole range of social phenomena that elsewhere belong to normality: non-governmental organizations, press, Internet access, education in Romanian language and so on.

            In the near future, there are no predictable changes of essence in the structure, functions and security methods on the left bank of Dniester. It is possible that conflicting developments in Ukraine to create new threats from this direction or an additional support for the separatist regime – which however changes the security options in Transnistria only in quantitative terms, and not essentially.



[1] Date of October 13, 2013, see http://vspmr.org/Law/?ID=1104 (25.02.2015)

[2] Current Issue 29 April 2013

[3] All published on the official website of the Ministry of Interior at http://mvdpmr.org/index.php?option=com_phocadownload&view=category&id=1&Itemid=106 (25.02.2014)

[5] Current edition on January 22, 2013

[6] Apud Forțele armate transnistrene, avangarda noului dispozitiv militar rus, at http://www.interlic.md/2007-11-26/3163-3163.html (25.02.2014)

[7]The austere condition of the institutional beginning are described by the first director, Vladimir Antiufeev, as follows: “The work of the newly established State security body began with an «absolute zero». With a copy of the Decree, office spaces that have been a resting place and including a table, two machine guns, a box of ammunition – there was nothing else. But the main difficulty (…) was the lack of professional human resources capacity, which, at that time, could be counted on the fingers of one hand” , see http://kgb-pmr.com/history (25.02.2014)

[9] Immediately after this institutional transformation, a significant number of former MGB officers loyal to the former director Antiufeev funded the “Prognoz” organization, with anti-Shevchuk political orientation, publishing the “Priednistrovskie Vedomosti” review. Detalii în articolul MGB-ul lui Antiufeev îşi ascute lancea contra lui Şevciuk, at http://www.timpul.md/articol/mgb-ul-lui-antiufeev-isi-ascute-lancea-contra-lui-sevciuk-33997.html?action=print

[10] KGB-ul a revenit în Transnistria, at http://www.timpul.md/articol/kgb-ul-a-revenit-in-transnistria-30688.html (25.02.2014)

[13] MGB-ul transnistrean se teme de Bonzii occidentali, at http://www.infoprut.ro/2011/mgb-ul-transnistrean-se-teme-de-bonzii-occidentali.html (25.02.2014)

[14] Teodor Cârnaț: Jumătate din SIS lucrează pentru MGB și FSB, at http://www.nit.md/index_md.php?action=news&id=9546 (25.02.2014)

[15] SIS: „mgb” transnistrean dezinformează și aplică tactici represive,  at http://www.jc.md/sis-mgb-transnistrean-dezinformeaza-%C8%99i-aplica-tactici-represive (25.02.2014)

[16] See maximum details in PromoLex publication „Buletin CRDT”, subtitled „Prizonierii uitați. Ernest Vadarnean”, no. 38/2010, at http://www.promolex.md/upload/ebulletin/ro/nr.38_1292850373ro_.pdf (25.02.2014)

[17] Încă un autodenunţ în Transnistria. Ilie Cazac recunoaşte că a făcut spionaj în favoarea RM, at http://www.timpul.md/articol/inca-un-autodenunt-in-transnistria–ilie-cazac-recunoaste-ca-a-facut-spionaj-in-favoarea-rm-12833.html (25.20.2014)

[18]The MGB version: “Our employees have nothing to do with this case, which looks more like a black PR. Eliseev tried to work in the Transnistria without getting accreditation, but after he was told that he was not allowed, he left by himself in Odessa. The same thing was done by the operator Grigoriev, who previously worked in Transnistria and is now an employee of NTV-Petersburg. Nobody detained the operator”. Subsequently, it was found that Mikhail Eliseev is not a NTV journalist, but an employee of the “NEVAgrad” studio, see Cine minte: mgb-ul transnistrean sau jurnalistul rus?, la http://media.hotnews.md/articles/view.hot?id=13708 (25.02.2014)

[19] Răzvan Iorga, Jurnaliști ruși, sechestrați și bătuți de MGB-ul transnistrean, at http://karadeniz-press.ro/kara/jurnalisti-rusi-sechestrati-si-batuti-de-mgb-ul-transnistrean/ (25.02.2014)

[20] KGB transnistrean impune restricții membrilor OSCE din Republica Moldova, at https://lact.ro/index.php/actualitati/136-22-01-2014-kgb-transnistrean-impune-restrictii-membrilor-misiunii-osce-in-republica-moldova (25.02.2014)

[22] http://kgb-pmr.com/news/279; see also Dan Gheorghe, Republica Moldova a declanșat vânătoarea împotriva separatiștilor care l-au reținut pe profesorul Ion Iovcev, directorul Liceului Lucian Blaga din Tiraspol, at http://www.romanialibera.ro/actualitate/eveniment/republica-moldova-a-declansat-vanatoarea-impotriva-separatistilor-care-l-au-retinut-pe-profesorul-ion-iovcev-directorul-liceului-lucian-blaga-din-tiraspol-326503.html (25.02.2014)

[24] Apud Forțele armate transnistrene, avangarda noului dispozitiv militar rus, at http://www.interlic.md/2007-11-26/3163-3163.html (25.02.2014)