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A view of the city council in Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, Moldova, November 25, 2021. (Alexander Hassenstein/UEFA/Getty Images)

The self-declared republic of Transnistria – which has its own constitution, army, currency and flag but has never been recognized by the international community – could be drawn into Russia’s war in Ukraine.

A senior Russian general said last week that the military was aiming for ‘full control’ of the eastern Donbas region and southern Ukraine – and access to Transnistria, the breakaway territory of neighboring country Moldova .

TASS quoted the acting commander of Russia’s Central Military District, Major General Rustam Minnekaev, as saying the goal was to create a land corridor between Donbass and Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

On Monday, explosions took place in Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, in what Ukraine’s Defense Ministry called a “planned provocation” by Russian intelligence.

Here’s what you need to know about Transnistria and why it matters to Russia.

A small breakaway state: Transnistria is a narrow strip of land about 1,350 square miles, sandwiched between Ukraine and the rest of Moldova – only slightly larger than Rhode Island, the smallest state in the United States.

It is home to around half a million people, most of whom are Russian speakers.

A little history : Transnistria declared its independence from the former Soviet Republic of Moldova following a two-year war (1990-1992) that broke out with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Russians intervened to support Transnistria but never recognized it as an independent state. The conflict between the Moldovan government and the separatists ended with a ceasefire in 1992, but around 1,500 Russian troops have remained in Transnistria since then.

Russia eyeing Transnistria: Major General Minnekaev’s statement, outlining Russia’s strategy for the “second phase” of the war, caused immediate alarm from the Moldovan authorities, who summoned the Russian ambassador.

Statements on Transnistria are “baseless and contradict the position of the Russian Federation supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, within its internationally recognized borders”, the Moldovan Affairs Ministry has said. Foreign Affairs and European Integration.

He added that during the meeting with the Russian ambassador, Moldovan officials reiterated that the country was a “neutral state and that this principle must be respected by all international actors, including the Russian Federation”.

Role in the war: Some military analysts suspect Russia is relying on Transnistria for logistical support – and taking advantage of its strategic position to establish a land corridor along the Black Sea to capture the port city of Odessa.

Watch more here:

What is Transnistria?  - CNN Video

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