Gosh, I sure picked the right year to learn Russian!
Last night, I saw Russian news channel L!feNews report that the Transnistrian KGB shot down a Ukrainian drone (literally bezpilotnik or “without pilot”). Since then I’ve seen several other Russian-language media outlets reporting the same thing.
Unfortunately, scaremongering Ukrainian news sources (in Russian) have been showing pictures of unmanned drones similar to the kind that the American government uses to murder their own citizens and other innocent people worldwide. The good news here is that the Ukrainian bezpilotnik was nothing of the sort.
You can see the original photos on the Transnistrian KGB‘s own website that the drone is clearly a remote-controlled “toy” type plane (although quite large) that anyone can buy from a German company. Those planes aren’t cheap (they run anywhere from 900 to 2500 euros) but they’re a long way from those huge military style UAVs.
I love the above image (of the wreckage) because it shows so much about Transnistria and you don’t need to speak a word of Russian to understand it.
First, it looks like someone strapped a Samsung phone to the plane to record photos and/or video, which is pretty amateurish (and non-military). Secondly, you can see a kid just out of the frame, which makes it look like this KGB agent shot down the R/C plane while out and about with his family.
Third, you can see just how rich and fertile Transnistria is with a lush field stretching off into the distance. This is in stark contrast to the brown, dry scrubland that composes most of (the rest of) Moldova. As I already wrote about before, Transnistria belongs geographically to the fertile plains of Ukraine and it is only through (essentially) a cartographical mistake that it ever got included in the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic to begin with.
Whether the Ukrainian military or some Pravy Sektor types or just a curious citizen sent over the bezpilotnik into Transnistria, we’ll never know. But what I fear is just how these type of actions continue to ratchet up the tension.
As a case in point, Dmitry Rogozin recently appeared on Russian state TV and said that if Moldova joins the EU and/or NATO, Transnistria won’t come along (link in English). His Twitter feed has been absolutely invaluable to me because he is both the deputy prime minister of Russia as well as being his government’s point man on Moldova so what he says and thinks is of utmost importance in understanding what’s going on.
But understanding Russian has paid off for me beyond just being able to understand the official story here.
In the chyron (scrolling text) underneath Rogozin is the news bulletin that Luxembourg and Bulgaria (both EU members) are against imposing sanctions on Russia. I haven’t heard a single thing about that in the English-language news, where they focus only on what America, UK, Germany (and to a lesser extent, France) have to say. Here in Romania it’s obvious that President Basescu is fiercely anti-Russian but the EU now has 28 members and frankly their voices are getting lost in the mix.
By far though my favorite comment to a video is one of the viewers of the L!fenews report where they are laughing at how Transnistria still uses old Soviet-style buses (seen in the archival footage used in the report). The Transnistrian government speaks modern Russian but their state is stuck in a timewarp, which is why they still have a KGB and Stalin statues, and it’s clear that most Russians think of them as antiquated relics from a bygone era.
That’s a lot less “black and white” than the usual EU/USA/Romania propaganda wherein Russia can’t wait to accept their little Transnistrian brothers back into the fold (of the Soviet Union, no less!).
Frankly, the people in Transnistria are terribly divided, some wanting to walk across the (largely) unmarked border and join their brothers in Ukraine, others wanting to focus westwards to Chisinau, Romania and the EU, and only a handful wanting the iron hand of Putin’s Russia to take over the administration of their daily affairs.
I spent my entire childhood in vague fear of a faraway menace, old men in fur hats mumbling an incomprehensible language as they guzzled vodka and plotted to destabilize and conquer the globe in direct competition with my homeland and the people that I knew and understood. But the older I get and the more languages I understand, the more I realize what a bunch of malarkey that is.
As soon as you can understand what another person is saying, you can understand them and see that they’re not that different at all. There really aren’t that many bad people in this world, only a hell of a lot of ordinary people who badly misunderstand each other because of language differences.