In downtown Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, children play on a Soviet-era tank in August 2023. Photo by Vitalie Călugăreanu.

Despite sanctions, companies based in Romania, Bulgaria and other EU countries are providing fuel to Moldova’s pro-Russian separatist region, Transnistria, posing a potential threat to neighbouring Ukraine.

That is the finding of this investigation by freelance journalists based in Romania, Moldova and Ukraine.

Although far from Russian territory and with no direct supply links with the Russian Federation, the internationally unrecognised “Transnistrian Republic” is an important part of Moscow’s military machine.

Stretching along Moldova’s eastern border with Ukraine, the mostly Russian-speaking territory has been under the de facto control of Moscow loyalists since 1992. It is home to Russian troops of the 14th Army and huge stockpiles of arms and ammunition.

Without fuel, the Russian war machine in Transnistria would be scrap metal. But despite international sanctions, a sophisticated fuel supply chain keeps diesel flowing to the breakaway region, the investigation found.

As a result, a formidable force of combat vehicles and large amounts of ammunition are potentially poised to take part in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine at any time.

The journalists revealed that the network in charge of supplying the Russian military in Transnistria is made up of companies registered in EU countries and has been operating at full capacity since the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European Union and NATO have declined to comment on this situation, pointing to the responsibility of those EU and NATO member states that allow fuel supplies to Transnistria. Those states pass the buck to Moldova, saying it is the only country capable of solving the problem.

The team

  • Cătălin Prisacariu (Romania), Sorin Ozon (Romania),Vitalie Călugăreanu (Moldova), Oleg Oganov (Ukraine)

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