War against Ukraine: Rising tensions in Moldova

Status: 03/02/2023 08:36 a.m

Concerns are growing in the former Soviet Republic of Moldova that the country could be drawn into Russia’s war against Ukraine. Russian soldiers stationed in the split-off Transnistria region could play a role in this.

By Stephan Laack, ARD Studio Moscow

Thousands of demonstrators in the Moldovan capital Chisinau on Tuesday demanded the resignation of President Maia Sandu. It was the second time in two weeks that the pro-Russian opposition party Shor was able to mobilize so many people. They called on the pro-Western government to push down energy prices through subsidies and to keep their country out of the war in neighboring Ukraine.

Fear of getting involved in the war

Fears of the former Soviet republic of Moldova becoming involved in the war have also increased recently because Russia has been accusing Ukraine almost every day of wanting to carry out a military provocation in the breakaway region of Transnistria. The self-proclaimed Republic of East Moldova borders Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned at the beginning of the week: “Of course, the situation in Transnistria is the subject of our greatest attention and cause for concern. The unsettled situation is fueled from outside. We know that our opponents in the Kiev regime and in the European countries are provoking different things are able to. We know that very well and are aware of it.”

Russian soldiers in Transnistria

Russia has stationed soldiers in the Transnistria region split off from Moldova. The Russian Foreign Ministry recently made it clear that attacks on the troops there would be treated as an attack on the Russian Federation. The warning was also explicitly addressed to the USA and the other NATO member states.

Moldova has consistently denied Russian allegations that Ukraine plans to take military action against the breakaway republic. There are no threats to the military security of Transnistria, according to the Ministry of Defense in Chisinau. Moldova in turn accused Russia of wanting to overthrow the pro-Western government, which Moscow immediately denied.

Warning of military intervention

In this mixed situation, former Moldovan President Igor Dodon, known for his pro-Russia stance, is heating up the situation by picking up on the Russian allegations and warning Ukraine against military intervention in Transnistria: “It’s a very, very dangerous situation in Transnistria of the region and in Transnistria. You see the statements of the Ukrainians, the statements of Maia Sandu, you see other statements. I want to address our Ukrainian neighbors directly. They are our brothers. We do not need your help in Transnistria. Deal with yours own problems.”

Kyiv fears Russian attack

Ukraine fears Russia is looking for an excuse to attack with troops stationed there. Even if it is estimated that only about 3,000 Russian soldiers are stationed in Transnistria, who are said to have no heavy weapons at their disposal. However, there is currently no reliable information.

From the southern border of Transnistria it is less than a hundred kilometers to the Ukrainian port city of Odessa. Speaking on Ukrainian television, Andriy Demchenko, spokesman for the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, said: “We understand the enemy’s betrayal, we understand that provocations can be created at any time. So we are prepared for any threats – from any direction – even if something should happen from Transnistria.

Amid rising tensions in the region, Hungarian airline Wizz Air announced that it would no longer fly to Moldova’s Chisinau Airport from March 14.

Tense situation in ex-Soviet Republic of Moldova

Stephan Laack, ARD Moscow, 2.3.2023 8:36 a.m

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