SITREP: Transnistria Drone Attack

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What Happened:

On Sunday, March 17, local news sources and Russian state-owned media outlets reported that an explosive drone attack targeted a Transnistrian military installation near the capital of Tiraspol, resulting in the destruction of a helicopter. No other injuries or damage were reported.

While not explicitly accusing Ukraine of the attack, initial reports suggested that the drone came from the direction of Odessa.

Footage released of the attack shows a drone striking a Mil Mi-8 helicopter, which some had initially suggested was decommissioned as it appears to be missing a front window.


Geolocation of the video shows that the strike was carried out at the Tiraspol airport, geolocated to 46°52’20.54″N,  29°35’6.69″E. Suggestions that the targeted helicopter was decommissioned were backed up by satellite imagery, which shows that the helicopter had not been used or moved from that exact spot since at least 2003 (shown below).

Analysis of the footage shows that the type of drone used to carry out the attack was some sort of FPV drone, which typically have a range no greater than 10 km, or about 6 miles. This means that a drone operator had to be within relative close distance to the strike and did not come from Odessa, which sits almost 60 miles away, however, the closest point from the Ukraine border to Tiraspol is only about 6 miles.

Attack Timing and Implications:

The incident comes as Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova with a large ethnic Russian population, held voting for Russia’s presidential election today, which was condemned and rejected by Moldova and other allied countries.


It also comes just weeks after the Transnistrian government, through a special congress, formally asked Russia for protection “in the context of increasing pressure from Moldova,” which it has described as an “economic blockade.” The type or extend of this “protection” was not specified.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told TASS that “protecting the interests of the residents of Pridestrovie [Transnistria] , our compatriots, is one of the priorities. All requests are always carefully considered by the Russian relevant departments.”

Since the outbreak of the invasion by Russian forces, Ukraine and Moldova have frequently accused Russia of planning false flag attacks against Transnistria to set a pretext for larger troop deployments to the region, which could augment operations against Odessa.

While tactical objectives for Ukraine have shifted various times since the start of the invasion, Russia has set its eyes on the region, previously stating “control over the south of Ukraine is another exit into Transnistria, where there are also facts pointing to the oppression of the Russian-speaking population.”

Ukraine and Moldova Deny Involvement:

In a statement by the Moldovan government asserts that “the incident in question is an attempt to cause fear and panic in the region. The military equipment in the pictures has not worked for several years.”

“The authorities in Chisinau, in contact with the Ukrainian side, do not confirm any attack on the Transnistrian region,” it added.