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Tragedy of the city of Bendery

22.07.2013 14:05

Alexander Novik

On June 19, 1992, columns of armored vehicles, heavily armed policemen and soldiers of the national army of the Republic of Moldova entered the peaceful city of Bendery on the right bank of the Dniester River from three directions and opened fire on everything that surrounded them. According to the eyewitnesses the Moldovan units entering the city fired from heavy guns located in armored personnel carriers, at houses and yards, where at this time civilians were sheltering, at cars with people. They fired also at the citizens who left the city, the people who tried to help the wounded defenders of the city. Moldovan nationalists entered Bendery to recover here the so-called ‘constitutional order’. So began the tragedy that divided life of citizens into the ‘before’ and ‘after’ the tragedy of the city.

Below are those who participated in the attack on the city: Interior Ministry forces (police and a special police service brigade), the national army (the 1st, 3rd and 4th battalions of motorized infantry), community defense volunteer squads and volunteers from Romania, the Baltic countries and others. During the night from 19 to 20 June the Moldovan troops occupied almost the whole city. At 4:00 am the 1st Battalion of the Moldovan army came to the Bendery Bridge, blocked it and thus cut off Bendery from Tiraspol and the left bank of Dniester. On June 20 Moldovan troops began to occupy plant and other facilities of the city.

 Here are those who fought on the side of defenders of the city: the 2nd Bendery battalion, four motorized brigades, special purpose brigades ‘Delta’ and ‘Dniester’, TMR guardsmen, the Cossacks of the Black Sea Cossack troops, territorial rescue squads, people’s volunteers from Russia, Ukraine and other countries. The battle for Bendery also involved the 59th rifle division and the guided missile brigade of the 14th Russian Army, which was stationed in Transnistria.

 The 14th Army’s intervention in the conflict took place after two major incidents in Bendery on June 20. However, it was possible to repulse the attack of the Moldovan army and police, to stop atrocities in the city only after the command of the 14th Army of the Russian Federation was taken by Major-General Alexander Lebed, and on his order the Russian tanks and other military equipment got into action. The fighting lasted until the 7th of July, when Russian Presidential Envoys arrived in Transnistria and on the same day a cease-fire agreement was signed, and on July 21st in Moscow, the presidents of Russia and Moldova signed an Agreement on the Principles of a Peaceful Settlement of the Armed Conflict in the Transnistrian Region of the Republic of Moldova.

 The events in Bendery are not evaluated by its residents other than as ‘the tragedy of the city’. During the barbarian nationalists invasions about 1280 houses were damaged, of which 60 were completely destroyed. Many houses and plant facilities were ransacked, equipment and raw materials were taken out, and more than 1,600 apartments were destroyed. 15  health care facilities and 19 educational facilities were destroyed. Some residential areas were completely razed to the ground, together with residents. In fact, nearly the entire city’s infrastructure was destroyed. In general, the amount of damage caused to the city exceeded 10 trillion rubles in 1992.

 As a result of the tragedy in Bendery, according to the authorities, more than 350 people were killed and 672 injured - all civilians. All were killed: Russian, Moldavians, Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Gagauz, and others who came to hand. They were killed with cruelty and mercilessness: there were cases of burning alive, scalping, some of the victims had body parts hacked off, eyes  put out. Especially the so-called ‘volunteers’ rampaged – the released from prison gangsters who killed innocent children, boys and girls. Snipers - woman athletes in shooting from the Baltic republics actively ‘worked’ killing civilians by accurate shots to the head.

 The number of refugees, who have left the city, is estimated at 100,000, of whom 80,000 were registered in Transnistria.

 The scale of the tragedy is unable to evaluate, it can not be described by cold hard statistics. Hundreds of dead and wounded. Among them are civilians, women, old people and children. The destroyed, burnt city. People left homeless. Tens of thousands of refugees. Multi-million dollar damage of property.

 On the other hand - in the days of the Moldovan nationalists’ invasion the Bendery residents displayed courage and fortitude in defending their hometown. In 1997, for the courage and heroism displayed by the Bendery residents in defending the gains of the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic, the city was awarded the highest state honor - the Order of the Republic.

 Today, the city is healing the scars of war, which will take decades. As is noted by one of the residents of Babilung, “the blood that was spilled here will seethe for a rather long time. It is inconceivable and even harmful for our generation which took aim at each other, to decide anything. Only our grandchildren will be able to do so.” And many think so. There is no forgiveness for the aggressor and will never be; its crimes have no time limitation.

 And what about Chisinau? Most probably there revanchist sentiments are maturing against Bendery and the whole Transnistria. This is evident, in particular, from the speech at the memorial meeting on March 2, 2013 in commemoration of the 21st anniversary of the outbreak of military conflict on the Dniester River, by Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti, in which he called the current politicians “to undertake anything to resume the left bank of the territory (i.e. TMR) to the constitutional space of Moldova”. What will this ‘anything’ be – peaceful or such as in June 1992 in Bendery, was not specificed by president Timofti.

 So far in the first place - a withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria. On the eve of the president’s speech the new ambassador of Moldova to Russia, appointed in December 2012, Andrey Galbur said: “We stand for the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova in accordance with international obligations.” According to him, Chisinau intends to replace peacekeeping forces by international civil mission.

 In turn, the president of the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic Yevgeny Shevchuk, commenting on the proposal to replace the ‘Russian blue helmets’ by a mission of civilian observers said once again that “Transnistria is against the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers until a final political settlement of the conflict on the Dniester.”

 “The task of the blue helmets is to prevent further bloodshed. And they fulfill it honourably,” said the leader of Transnistria. Moreover, he spoke for strengthening the Russian peacekeeping contingent.