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Asserts New York City Bar Association in a New Study

Russia’s Activities in Moldova Violate International Law

de     Ager Press
Miercuri, 3 mai 2006, 0:00

Mark A. Meyer

The New York City Bar Association’s Committee on European Affairs issued on May 2nd, 2006, a report that says Russia’s support of the separatist regime in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria leads to a serious claim that Russia is violating international law and illegally interfering in the internal affairs of Moldova.

The committee’s conclusion is one of the results of a year-long study that included sending a mission to the area and meeting with the leadership of both the Republic of Moldova and the so-called Transnistrian Moldovan Republic ("TMR"), as well as representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Romania and the U.S. State Department.

The Mission was led by Mark A. Meyer, Esq., the Chair of the New York City Bar’s European Affairs Committee and a member of the Bucharest law firm of Rubin Meyer Doru & Trandafir, spca, which is affiliated with the Wall Street firm of Herzfeld & Rubin, P.C. Mr.

Meyer is chair of the Romanian-American Chamber of Commerce in Washington, and a recipient of Romania’s National Order of Merit at the rank of Commander. He is also a member of the Bucharest Bar and the panel of the Romanian Court of International Commercial Arbitration. Mr. Meyer’s colleagues on the Mission were Robert Abrams, former Attorney General of the State of New York;

Barrington D Parker, Jr., a U.S. Circuit Court Judge in the Second Circuit; Elizabeth F. Defeis, Professor of Law and former Dean of Seton Hall University Law School; and Christopher J. Borgen, Assistant Professor of Law at St. John's University School of Law. Professor Borgen was the primary author of the report.

Mr Meyer stated that: "The new study concludes that Russia’s activities in Transnistria – including the intervention of its 14th Army on behalf of the separatists, the ongoing military assistance to the TMR, the economic support of the TMR, and effectively bargaining on behalf of the TMR using energy and other levers of power against Moldova – lead to credible claims of state responsibility on the

part of Russia for the continuing separatist crisis and its proximate results, and violates fundamental principles of international law." The City Bar report also maintains that the TMR’s claims for sovereignty are without merit under international law, and its sales of Moldovan state assets to mostly Russian businessmen constitute a conversion of property that is exceedingly difficult to justify

under international law and in which purchasers consequently act at their own risk.

Background

Moldova is enmeshed in a seemingly intractable separatist conflict involving ethnic tensions, Russian troops, Soviet-era arms stockpiles, smuggling, money-laundering, and corruption. Bordering Romania and Ukraine, it is a country that has been largely overlooked by the West, although it sits on NATO’s borders and will soon become the eastern border of the European Union.

At issue is who should control a strip of land nestled between the Dniestr River and the border of Ukraine.

Transnistria contains Moldova’s key industrial infrastructure, power plants, and, importantly, a significant stockpile of Soviet-era arms. Since 1994, it has been under the effective control of a separatist regime that calls itself the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic supported by Russian troops.

The Russian 14th Army played a decisive role in the 1992 civil war by intervening in the fighting on behalf of the separatists. Despite treaty promises to demobilize and repeated Moldovan requests that Russia remove its troops from Transnistria, the troops remain.

Additional Findings

The City Bar report concludes that Russia has illegally propped up the viability of the TMR and made reintegration virtually impossible. The report determined that the Russians also provide materiel, expertise, and other support to the TMR on an ongoing basis.

Similarly, the Soviet-era arms stockpile under control of the 14th Army has been used to support the TMR, both directly and as a source of revenue, through joint Russian-TMR sales of army materiel on the world market. Moldova wants the immediate removal of the weapons stockpiles. Russia has so far refused to remove the stockpiles (or the troops).

Besides the use of the army to either hamper the Moldovans or assist the TMR, the City Bar found that Russia has also used economic pressure and economic assistance as a carrot and stick. Economic pressure is generally not barred by international law.

However, such pressure on a state, or assistance to separatists, may make the third-party state liable under the law of state responsibility if its pressure would either frustrate the pressured state’s (in this case Moldova) sovereign privileges or would breach one of the third-party’s pre-existing commitments to the state being coerced.

In considering the present situation, the report found that there are four areas of particular concern: (a) the use of energy prices as a carrot or a stick; (b) the increased use of tariff barriers against Moldovan goods; (c) economic assistance to the TMR; and (d) the shared economic interests of Russian and Transnistrian elites.

Taken as a whole, the City Bar concludes that there is a significant intervention on behalf of the TMR by Russia.


Conclusion

The report concludes that the various activities described above – the economic pressure, the military assistance to the TMR, and the energy politics – need to be understood in light of the constant Russian rhetoric in favor of the TMR and critical of Moldova. No single activity described would likely lead to state responsibility (although the troop situation may rise to that level).

The report states that these acts seen as a whole, combined with constant Russian statements supporting the TMR and criticizing Moldovan efforts at reintegration, form a compelling picture of inappropriate intervention by Russia into the domestic affairs of Moldova.

A link to the 11-page executive summary is attached here:
http://www.nycbar.org/pdf/report/NYCityBarTransExecSum.pdf

A link to the complete report is attached here:
http://www.nycbar.org/pdf/report/NYCity%20BarTransnistriaReport.pdf




















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