According to media reports, on the morning of January 20, Moldova suspended the ban on crossing the Moldovan-Ukrainian border by cars with Pridnestrovian license plates. The lifting of restrictions followed when Pridnestrovie warned that it intended to come up with a tit-for-tat response and block its border with Ukraine for cars from Moldova.
Meanwhile, since January 10, the Pridnestrovian side called on Chisinau to abandon the policy of pressure and restrictions on Pridnestrovie.
On January 14, the PMR Foreign Minister Vitaly Ignatiev raised a question on this issue at a meeting with Moldovan political representative Alexander Flenchea. However, instead of demonstrating wisdom and abolishing restrictions on Pridnestrovian car owners, Flenchea broke forth into involved explanations, appealing to some kind of agreement with Ukraine. Meanwhile, there were no obstacles to transport on the PMR license plates from Ukraine. It was the Border Police of the Republic of Moldova that did not let cars in.
Then the Pridnestrovian Security Council decided to come up with a tit-for-tat response. On January 17, the Pridnestrovian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned Chisinau and international partners that from January 24 restrictions would be imposed on crossing the border with Ukraine for all types of vehicles registered in Moldova and driven by permanent residents of the Republic who have a driving license of the Republic of Moldova.
Pridnestrovie Warned, Moldova didn`t
We emphasize that the warning from Pridnestrovie included a one-week period, that is, Moldova had seven days to cancel the restrictions. By the way, Chisinau did not inform anyone that on January 10 it “closes the barrier” on the border with Ukraine in front of cars registered in the PMR.
Let's pay attention to one more nuance. A statement from the Pridnestrovian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the ban should apply only to cars with license plates of Moldova, if the driver was a resident of that country, and not a person with Moldovan documents, permanently residing in Pridnestrovie, Ukraine or some other country. And also in this document it was noted that the ban would be lifted as soon as Moldova again started letting cars with Pridnestrovian license plates in through its border with Ukraine.
Thus, tit-for-tat response was the last opportunity to reason the official Chisinau.
As the director of the political mediator bureau Mediator Sergey Shirokov noted, in a situation where the rights of citizens of the PMR were violated under far-fetched pretexts, the Pridnestrovian state simply had to react and take appropriate measures. The expert explained a symmetric and adequate response to the actions of official Chisinau only after it became clear that the Moldovan authorities could not or did not want to realize the depth and seriousness of the problem they created.
Not the First Time
At the same time, Shirokov recalled that the Moldovan authorities had previously made a decision to block the movement of Pridnestrovian vehicles. And again, without any explanation.
So, after the introduction of an economic blockade on Pridnestrovie on March 3, 2006, the Moldovan authorities announced that from January 1, 2008 they intended to outlaw Pridnestrovian vehicle registration plates as well. And then this concerned not only the crossing of the Moldovan-Ukrainian or Moldovan-Romanian borders, but also the entry from Pridnestrovie to Moldova in general. Moreover, then, Chisinau also wanted to introduce a re-clearance of cars imported after 1993. And then, according to the plan of the Moldovan authorities, only Moldovan citizens could go through this procedure. For the rest of the Pridnestrovians, it was proposed first to renounce the citizenship of another country, and then begin to register Moldovan citizenship in order to legalize their vehicle. Pridnestrovie threatened with retaliatory measures. And the problem was solved thanks to the intervention of international partners.
Moldova did Recognized PMR Driver's License Before
It is noteworthy that on May 16, 2001, the presidents of Pridnestrovie and Moldova Igor Smirnov and Vladimir Voronin signed the “Protocol on the mutual recognition of documents issued by the competent authorities of the parties on the territory of Pridnestrovie and Moldova”. The list of such documents included driver's licenses, as well as certificates of registration of motor vehicles and license plates. None of Voronin's followers on this post revoked the presidential signature on this document.
By the way, the story with neutral numbers showed that Chisinau easily refused the previously signed agreements. Indeed, the first time that Pridnestrovie and Moldova agreed on them has been already in March 2013. At the same time, the signatures of the political representatives of the parties were also put under the sketch of future license plates. They slightly differed from the current ones: instead of three Latin letters there were two universal letters “AB” for two letters and five digits.
In 2018, Ukraine announced that since May it will not allow vehicles with Pridnestrovian license plates to enter its territory. By the way, it does allow them to do that now. But then this threat accelerated the process of signing the Protocol decision on neutral license plates on April 25, 2018 in the lobby of the Tkachenko Palace of Culture. Strange as it may seem, it was international mediators again who persuaded Ukraine not to impose a ban, and Moldova to sign the corresponding agreement.
At the same time, Moldova’s current attempts to link unmotivated restrictions on Pridnestrovian vehicles with certain decisions of Ukraine do not stand up to criticism. Kiev remains a mediator in the negotiations on the Moldovan-Pridnestrovian conflict and will not introduce any new rules without coordination with other participants of the “Permanent Meeting”. Moreover, the OSCE publicly announced the inadmissibility of an escalation of the situation.
So is not the first time that Pridnestrovie has to fight for the license plates. But, of course, it is better to do without such scary stories. However, now, this depends on our Chisinau partners` prudence. Unfortunately, it is increasingly failing.