The Transnistrian Army
By: Dominique Gomez
Transnistrian Army Overview
The Armed Forces of Transnistria was established through the constitution of the Republic in September 6, 1991, during the national referendum under Section I, Article 11.
The role of the Armed Forces, based on the constitution is “to defend sovereignty and independence of the Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica, the Armed Forces are established. The order of establishment and activity of the Armed Forces is determined by law.”
On September 6, 1991, the Supreme Soviet of Transnistria adopted a resolution which called for the formation of a Transnistrian military unit. As a result, the Republican Guard was formed.
It was the direct counterpart to the Republic’s Republican guard. Both were predecessors to their respective countries armed forces. In their first major conflict, the guard repelled the troops of the Moldovan National Army against the city of Dubasari in December 1991.
By the end of 1991. The organizational formation of the Transnistrian armed forces was generally completed. Shortly after the outbreak of the Transnistrian War in March 1992, the People’s Militia was created which was supported and armed by the Russian Armed Forces 14th Guards Army.
Eventually, the main structures of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff were formed, including individual military units, government agencies, and specialized services. On March 14, 1993, the personnel of the new armed forces took the military oath of allegiance to the country.
In 1956, the 14th Guards Army was created as a unit of the Soviet Union’s Army from the 10th Guards “Budapest” Rifle Corps, which was formerly a part of Odessa Military District with its headquarters situated at Chisinau.
By the 1980s, the Army Headquarters of the Soviet Union moved to Tiraspol, which is the capital of today's Transnistria. In 1991, the 14th Guards Army were comprised of four motor rifle divisions and other smaller Army units.
Amongst the Army units, only the 59th Guards Motor Rifle Division and some smaller Army units, which included the 1162nd Anti-Aircraft Rocket Regiment were situated on the left area of the Dniester within the region of Transnistria.
In June 1997, the 59th Guards Motor Rifle Division became the 8th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade.
In November 2002, the 8th MR Brigade was disbanded and the remaining personnel, which is approximately 5,719 personnel were included into the Peacekeeping Forces command.
Additionally, other formations including the 28th Guards and 180th Motor Rifle Divisions were situated over the border in Ukraine and then became part of the Ukrainian Ground Forces.
Based on the Army sources, citizens of Transnistria created the great majority of its soldiers and troops, which included the 51 percent of the military officers and 79 percent from the drafted Army personnel.
As a result of the reduction in the strength of the Operational Group (Commander General, Major Boris Sergeyev), as of 2006, the current strength of the force is around 1,000 to 1,500 troops/
In November 2008, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution, which urged Russia to “respect its commitments” during the Istanbul OSCE Summit in 1999.
At the same time, the assembly prompted Russia to “withdraw its illegal military presence from the 'Transdniestrian' region of Moldova in the near future.” As of September 2014, the unit is commanded by Major General Boris Sergeyev of Russia and it currently has 1,199 officers and personnel. It is coincided with the Joint Control Commission.
In April 2016, Russia announced that it would be withdrawing its troops from Moldova once the issue of liquidating the armament depots of the 14th Army Guards will be resolved.
However, there are some complications to the withdrawal of the troops as it is a necessity to transfer the armaments through Ukraine, which had a belligerent relationship most especially after the illegal Russian annexation of Crime and the illegal Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Organizational Structure of the Army
Commander in Chief - President of Transnistria, H.E. Vadim Krasnoselsky
Ministry of Defense - Major General Oleg Obruchkov
Chief of the General Staff - Colonel Sergey Gerasyutenko
The armed forces of Transnistria are currently composed of 4,500 to 5,500 active duty soldiers, (with 15,000 to 20,000 personnel in the reserve force).
General Staff of the Armed Forces
The commanding and managing body of the armed forces who is tasked to enforce military strategy which directly takes orders from the Ministry of Defense.
PMR Honour Guard
This unit was established in November 6, 1997 and has taken part in the welcoming of honoured guests and festive ceremonies. Notable commanders of the unit include: Yaroslav Isak, Valentin Rasputin and Artem Chernichenko.
General Staff Band
The musicians of the band currently has over a year of experience in the musical services of the Russian, Moldovan and Ukrainian armed forces. Their repertoire includes over 500 works by foreign composers. The band is led by Colonel Vitaly Voinov.
Aside from those mentioned, the military unit is also comprised of the Special Forces Battalion, Security Battalion and the Intelligence Company.
Regular Army Brigade Units
1st Motorised Infantry Brigade
2nd Motorised Infantry Brigade
3rd Motorised Infantry Brigade
4th Motorised Infantry Brigade
PMR Border Guard
Military Education in Transnistria
Military Institute of the Ministry of Defense
The Institute was established and founded in May 1993 and it is the oldest military institution in the armed forces. It was reorganized as an independent institution from the Shevchenko Transnistria State University in April 30, 2008.
In August 2009, the Institute was awarded a battle flag and given the honor of being renamed to honor Alexander Lebed in July 2012.
Tiraspol Suvorov Military School
The School was founded on September 1, 2017 and it is currently located in the Suvorov Military Schools in Russia and Belarus, respectively.
Aside from those schools mentioned, there is also the Dzerzhinsky Republican Cadet Corps and basic training course for military specialists.
Military Equipment of Transnistria
The military equipment of the Transnistrian Army is comprised of the following: small arms, armored vehicles and artillery.
The small arms of the Transnistrian Army are comprised of the following: Makarov PM - Semi-automatic pistol, SVD Dragunov - Sniper Rifle, AK-47 - Assault Rifle, AKM - Assault Rifle, PKM - General-purpose machine gun, RPG-7 - Rocket-propelled grenade, RPG-18 - Rocket-propelled grenade, RPG-22, 26 and 27 - Anti-armor, respectively.
The armored vehicles of the Transnistrian Army are composed of the following: T-64BV - Main battle tank, T-55 - Main battle tank, BMP-1 - Infantry fighting vehicle, MT-LB - Armored personnel carrier, GMZ-3 - Armored personnel vehicle, BTR-70 and 60 - Armored personnel vehicle and lastly, the BRDM-2 - Armored personnel vehicle, respectively.
The Transnistrian War
The Transnistria War occurred from March 2, 1991 until July 21, 1992. It is a war that was fought between Transnistria and Russia. Upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Transnistria drifted from Moldova, thus declaring the Republic of Transnistria as a breakaway state.
With this, the citizens of Transnistria created a “republican guard” in order for them to defend their self-declared independent country.
As an act of sympathy, the Russian 14th army officers sent equipment to the Transnistrian forces. Over time, the Russian 14th army formally engaged in the war, as allies of Transnistria to defeat the Moldovan forces.
However, in June 1992, the Transnistrian forces suffered an unfortunate defeat and the Moldovan forces won the war.
On July 21, 1992, the Russians brokered and negotiated a peace deal with Transnistria, which secured Transnistria’s de facto independence while the state, at the time, was still internationally recognized as a part of Moldova.
As a result of the unfortunate conflict between the two countries, it is estimated that 913 Transnistrians were killed and 624 were wounded. While for the offensive side, approximately 324 Moldovans were killed and 1,180 were wounded.
Despite an end to the devastating war between the Transnistrians and the Moldovans, currently, there is a so-called “frozen conflict” between the two countries with numerous political, economic, security/defense and socio-political issues have yet to be thoroughly discussed between the two parties.
Ever since the war ended between Transnistria and Moldova, as part of the joint Russian-Moldovan-Transnistrian peacekeeping force, which is commonly known as the “Joint Control Commission, an autonomous Russian military unit was moved within the force.
EUBAM Border Controls and Smuggling Issues
In June 2002, the European Parliament with an ad hoc delegation to Moldova convened to discuss their concerns regarding the situation of Transnistria as a breakaway region of Moldova. The delegation emphasized the “importance of reaching a rapid and viable solution” to their current state of affairs.
Furthermore, they stated that any settlement should be based on respect for Moldovan territorial integrity and OSCE declarations.
In line with this, the members of the delegation expressed their concerns regarding the existence of a “black hole” in Europe in which illegal trade in arms, the trafficking in human beings and the laundering of criminal finance was carried on. At the same time, they called for the establishment of strong joint border controls between Moldova and Ukraine.
In addition, the members of the delegation urged for the increased pressure to be put on both sides in the conflict to accept the assistance of international mediators and to persuade the Tiraspol authorities to accept a balanced settlement based on the internationally recognized borders of Moldova.
Allegations of Illegal Weapons Trade in Transnistria
Based on a then-confidential now declassified agreement conducted in 1998, Russia and Transnistria would “share profits from the sale of 40,000 tons of so-called “unnecessary” arms and ammunition kept in a weapons depot in Transnistria.
According to a former Moldovan official, he stated that Transnistria is a “region the size of Rhode Island and also a repository of rocket-mounted so-called “dirty bombs” warheads that are designed to scatter deadly radioactive material, which are currently missing.
Similar to the sentiments expressed by the members of the European Parliament delegation, the former Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana stated that Transnistria is a “black hole of transborder organized crime, including drug smuggling, human trafficking and arms smuggling.” With this, an unknown official provided that weapons from Transnistria have appeared in Chechnya, Abkhazia and within the insurgency in Africa.
Consequently, William C. Potter, director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute for International Studies in California on the issue of Transnistria being a weapons hub of Russia stated that “If I were in search of most commodities related to weaponry, this would be the place to go.”
Furthermore, Mr. Potter provided that “Even if I do not find the weaponry, I would find the individuals who could get me that weaponry.”
In February 2006, the Russian-Ukrainian delegation discussed the negotiation process to resolve the conflict in Transnistria. According to the press, this is a “fact-finding trip in order to study the problems in the Transnistrian settlement.”
One of the significant highlights of the discussion focused on the Russian and Ukrainian Security Councils that monitored “dual-use” plants in Transnistria.
The European Union and Chisinau have claimed that the “weapons are produced in the unrecognized republic, which gets to various 'hot-spots' which include Chechnya.” However, Transnistrian authorities denied the claims made by the former parties.
In addition, based from the Political Scientist Oazu Nantoi from Chisinau, he believes that “Transnistria is also able to produce weapons...weapons from the separatist region had been brought in many stages into international circulation.”
BBC News. (2006). Trans-Dniester blast kills eight. Retrieved from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5153322.stm
Clochina, S. & Schwartz, R. (2015). Transnistria’s explosive inheritance from the Soviet era. Retrieved from: https://www.dw.com/en/transnistrias-explosive-inheritance-from-the-soviet-era/a-18886862
European Parliament. (2002). European Parliament and Ad Hoc Delegation to Moldova. Retrieved from: https://wayback.archive-it.org/all/20061107212833/http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/committees/afet/20021007/473437EN.pdf
Kommersant. (2007). All Russian bases. Retrieved from: https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/766827
Historica. (n.d). Transnistria War. Retrieved from: https://historica.fandom.com/wiki/Transnistria_War
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. (2010). Constitution of the Pridnestrovskaia Respublica. Retrieved from: http://mfa-pmr.org/en/bht
Military Wikia. (n.d). 14th Army involvement in Transnistria. Retrieved from: https://military.wikia.org/wiki/14th_Army_involvement_in_Transnistria#cite_note-12
Solovyov, V. (2006). Moscow and Kiev have improved the image of Tiraspol. Retrieved from: https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/648475
Washington Times. (2004). Hotbed of weapons deals. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/jan/18/20040118-103519-5374r/