How the Donbass conflict looks like a crisis 30 years ago
Four years ago, on April 10, 2018, coming from Chisinau, Alex, my driver-guide, and I obtained our permits at the border between Moldova and Transnistria and headed towards Tiraspol, the capital of the Transnistria. I was later told at the tourism department that I was the first Indian to visit the independent country. I gave them the benefit of the doubt.
En route to the old Bender station, we stopped at what was once the town hall, whose white walls, richly riddled with bullet holes, showed signs of savage fighting during the Transnistrian war. It was a painful epitaph of times past. Groups of inexperienced and undisciplined fighters had rushed into battle, slaughtering each other. In no time, strangers intervened. Russia, sympathetic to its Transnistrian brothers, has armed the separatists. Romania supplied arms to Moldova.
The hardest period of the war took place from March 2 to July 21, 1992. The two sides, drunk on enmity but believed in the art of war, had continued to fight each other without reaching a conclusion. . With no sign of a quick and successful end, and appalled at their own performance, the vicious rivals looked wildly at Russia for intervention. Major General Alexander Lebed took control of the Russian 14th Army and rode headlong into battle, wiping out the Moldavian forces at Bender.
However, he disliked the separatist Transnistrians, denouncing them as bandits and criminals. “I said to the hooligans in Tiraspol and the fascists in Chisinau – either you stop killing each other or I shoot you with my tanks,” he reportedly said. Yielding to Lebed’s threat, the warriors loosened their weapons.
The Russians brokered a ceasefire that has lasted so far, making it a “frozen conflict.” More than 700 people died during the war. Although the Russians have established a military base in Transnistria, even they do not recognize it as an independent country.