Quick Hit - Terrorism in Transnistria?
Transnistria Secret Services claim Ukrainian plot to assassinate leadership
Yesterday, right after mailing the Weekly Roundup, the Transnistrian “authorities” announced that they had “neutralized” a planned terrorist attack by Ukrainian Secret Services (SBU). They claim that the attack was intended to kill senior Transnistrian leadership as well as a large number of civilians in a car bomb.
What Transnistria Claims Happened
The Transnistrian “Ministry of State Security” MGB gave the following details:
A plot of 6 persons, 4 of them Ukrainians, was planned against senior leadership and with a goal of inflicting maximum civilian casualties using a car bomb. The car was a Land Rover allegedly provided by the SBU and willed with RDX explosives and makeshift shrapnel (nuts and bolts).
2 people were captured and confessed to the plot. They claim to have gone from Ukraine to Chisinau and then snuck into Bender, Transnistria, via “goat paths.” They had cameras and surveillance equipment to track their target.
One person was captured when planting a camera (hidden in a brick). He subsequently confessed. The man was originally born in Tiraspol but moved to Odessa 12 years ago after convictions for pimping, hooliganism and robbery.
Other collaborators in the alleged plot were infiltrated into Transnistria under the guise of being refugees. Further individuals were handlers that never entered the territory but communicated with the plotters from Ukraine.
After the announcement on March 9th, the Transnistrian “authorities” quickly produced a short documentary news report that they aired on their TV stations. It showed pictures of the car and explosives, video of the confessions and narrated the plot for the audience.
Following the documentary, Transnistrian “leader” Vadim Krasnoselsky gave a speech seated in front of the Transnistrian and Russian flags. The speech was not live and apparently cut together from a number of takes. In it, he again laid out the “facts” of the situation and noted that some alleged plotters infiltrated the territory as refugees. On this topic he said:
“There are 25,000 refugees on the territory of Pridnestrovie. Another 70,000 citizens of Ukraine passed through Transnistria during the war in Ukraine. We provide jobs for refugees, Ukrainian children study in our schools. And we are all grateful for this,”
He further called on people
"not to see enemies in the refugees." … "there is no need to chase witches." … “I emphasize: we neutralized everyone. Our special services are also working in their places, ”
Reactions from Moldova and Ukraine
Moldovan Prime Minister Recean said that he had no confirmation of this information stating:
“We have no confirmation. It is important that there is a stable situation in Moldova, peace and stability in the region. The Reintegration Bureau manages to maintain peace and stability on the left bank of the Dniester. There is no danger of escalation, there are no problems in this area,”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities accused the Kremlin of a plot designed to destabilize the Transnistria region saying:
“Any statements by the so-called Ministry of State Security (MGB) of Transnistria about the participation of the SBU in the preparation of a terrorist attack should be considered solely as a provocation staged by the Kremlin,”
So… What Happened?
Right now it remains unclear what is going on in Transnistria. The idea that the SBU would plan an attack designed to decapitate the leadership of the region and maximize civilian casualties is extremely dubious. Clearly, throughout this war Ukraine has carried out assassinations of rebel leadership in the Donbas as well as Daria Dugina in Russia itself. But an escalation to attacking leaders of the breakaway region of sovereign and neutral Moldova would be massive. And any benefits extremely unclear. Further, Ukraine has sought to minimize civilian casualties and the international blowback from an intentional targeting of civilians in Transnistria would be massive. Put simply, Ukraine’s motivations for such an attack are unclear at best.
What about Russia? There are some indications that this could have been staged and designed by the Kremlin to keep the situation unstable in Moldova. A convicted criminal from Transnistria being the fall guy sounds more like Moscow than Kyiv for sure. With that said, one major question remains open - if the Kremlin planned some kind of “provocation,” were the Transnistrian “authorities” part of it? All indications of the past 6 months have been that Transnistrian “leadership” is genuinely trying to avoid any part in this war. How does this serve them?
At the moment, there are more questions than answers. Further, it is very possible that this situation blows over like the antenna bombings and RPG attacks of last summer with no satisfactory answer. The only thing we can say, is that once again Moldova, and Transnistria especially, is on edge. And perhaps that’s the whole point.
I appreciate the update, David.
Thanks for the quick update David. Your analysis seems very creditable and likely. Please keep us informed as we often work near Transnistria.