Moldova protests Russian voting stations in Transnistria

Moldova has slammed Moscow’s decision to open polling stations in the breakaway Transnistria region ahead of presidential elections in Russia on 15 -17 March, summoning the Russian ambassador on Tuesday.

Transnistria is not recognised internationally as a sovereign state, with the EU defining the territory as militarily occupation by Russia. 

Although officially unrecognised, Transnistria is a de facto presidential republic within Moldova – with its own government, parliament and military.

“The State of the Republic of Moldova acts where it can control the environment and accordingly we will not admit violations on the territory controlled by the constitutional authorities,” Dorin Recean, Prime Minister of Moldova, told journalists after the meeting.

The Russian ambassador said Russian diplomacy would respect the right to vote of all Russian citizens. 

Some 200,000 Russian citizens live in Transnistria, according to local pro-Russian authorities. 

“There have been many requests to the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, as well as to the Embassy. People [with Russian citizenship] asked for their legal right to vote,” Oleg Vasnetsov, Russian Ambassador to Moldova, said.

Moldova’s Foreign Minister Mihai Popsoi speaks during joint statements with Romanian counterpart Luminita Odobescu in Bucharest, Romania, Feb. 6, 2024.

On Monday, local media announced that the Russian Federation will open six polling stations in the Transnistria region and people with expired or Soviet-era passports able to vote.

Voting in Russia’s upcoming presidential election – which Vladimir Putin is all but certain to win – extends to territories annexed by Russia, including Crimea and the occupied parts of southeastern Ukraine. 

Russian personnel fighting in Ukraine have already begun to cast their ballots for the vote between 15 to 17 March, despite resistance by Kyiv. 

The past two years have been the hardest and most tumultuous for European Union candidate Moldova in more than three decades as it faces threats from Russia in multiple spheres of public life, the country’s foreign minister has said. 

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, fears have grown in Moldova that the country is also in the Kremlin’s crosshairs. 

These included errant missiles landing on its territory; a severe energy crisis after Moscow dramatically reduced gas supplies; rampant inflation; and protests by pro-Russia parties against the pro-Western government. 

Moldova has also taken in the highest number of Ukrainian refugees per capita of any country.

Moldova gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, but Russia continues to see the country – sandwiched between Ukraine and EU member Romania – as within its sphere of influence.

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