Where's Transnistria? And why do people there hope Russia will annex them next?

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Marco Werman: Ambassador Daalder mentioned Moldova a few minutes ago. The country between Ukraine and Romania is not a part of NATO, but the alliance is worried that Russia might be interested in absorbing part of Moldovan territory too, specifically the breakaway region of Transnistria. If you've never heard of it you're not alone. I had to consult a map while speaking with freelance journalist Mitra Nazar who is there. Mitra Nazar: It's a very small strip of land between Ukraine and Moldova and actually official it is part of Moldova. Werman: You'll excuse me because I just walked over to the map to actually see it. It's very hard to make out, Transnistria. It's not even on our map. When did the region break away from the Republic of Moldova. Nazar: That was in 1990 and just before the Soviet Union collapsed actually,Transnistria decided to declare independence because they didn't want to be part of a Moldovan state which leaned towards Romania more because people in Transnistria feel way more Russian. So they declared independence, but was not recognized. After that they fought a brief war with Moldova in 1992 which was eventually won by Transnistria with, of course, the help of the Russian army and since then it's basically a ceasefire, a Cold-War situation. They call it a "frozen conflict" up until the day of today. Werman: When you get a few Transnistrians together, and you've been in the capital for a few days talking with people, I mean how do they see the situation in Crimea now that it's been partitioned? Are there reflections of their own world, their own country? Nazar: They follow the news very directly, especially what has been happening in Ukraine. And since actually the referendum in Crimea and the annexation of Crimea, the atmosphere here in Transnistria has been ecstatic. People see it as a sign of hope. They believe that now they might be next and that's very important for the people here who have been waiting for "reunification", as they call it, with Russia for the past twenty years. They want to be part of Russia more than anything else. Werman: So you've traveled to the countryside as well in Transnistria. What are people there telling you? Nazar: I spoke to this pensioner, a woman of fifty-nine years old. She lives under a very small pension with one goat, one pig, and some chickens for eggs. She's listening to the radio all day, Russian radio of course, and she was very happy to hear that, someone on the radio said that, "Maybe now we can join Russia too." For her personally it's very important, she said, because her pension is very, very small now and she knows that in Russia pensions are higher. And also she hopes for the young generation here. There are not too many possibilities for young people here. It's very small and it's an unrecognized state, so there's no trade, there's no future for young people here and so they move away, they move away to Russia. And she would like to see those young people staying here and with Russia, she hopes that Russia would invest more and build some factories here for people to get jobs and be able to stay in Transnistria. Werman: So it's kind of the economy driving her hopes about becoming part of Russia, tying her future to a more robust economic center, but I mean Transnistria itself, it's a poor breakaway region, one of the poorest places in Europe. What's in it for Russia to come in and partition this place? Nazar: In the end, I think it all comes down to geopolitics. This could be an interesting border for Russia with Europe. But at the other side, since over twenty years, Russia hasn’t been recognizing Transnistria, mainly because Russia needed to keep some influence in Moldova as well. Moldova has been pro-Russian years ago. They shifted government and they now lean more towards the EU, but still have a lot of Russian-speakers in their country, Russian citizens as well. So the question is would Russia give that up by annexing Transnistria now? Maybe not, but people here, they dare to believe that they will. Werman: Freelance journalist Mitra Nazar. She's been reporting from Tiraspol, the capital of the breakaway region of Moldova called Transnistria. Thanks very much, Mitra. Nazar: You're welcome.