Debates are now intensifying on whether Moldova will be the next target for Russian President Vladimir Putin as the Ukraine war entered its second year on 24 February. Kremlin expressed concerns about Moldova’s breakaway Transdniestria region on Monday and said that external forces, including Ukraine and other European countries, are at play to flare up tensions in the region, which lies to Ukraine’s southwestern border.
Moldova, which is sandwiched between war-torn Ukraine and NATO member Romania, has a pro-West government in place. However, the country is not a NATO member, which would have provided the nation with a shield from possible Russian aggression. The country was granted EU candidate status in June 2022 but is not an EU member country yet.
Russia’s rhetoric over the Moldovan breakaway region comes a week after Moscow led a scathing attack on the West saying that it would take any move threatening Russian peacekeepers in Transdniestria as an attack on itself.
Moldova has been accusing Moscow of plotting a coup, an allegation that Russia has refuted. Following the allegations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia’s relations with Moldova are “already very tense.”
The small nation of Moldova is already reeling under high inflation and a political crisis just added insult to injury. The high bill made people resort to holding protests in the capital Chisinau a week ago where hundreds gathered and voiced their demands against inflation. According to multiple reports, Moldova’s pro-Russia Shor Party backed the protests.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov while speaking with media personnel said, “Naturally, the situation in Transdniestria is the subject of our closest attention and a reason for our concern.”
“The situation is unsettled, it is being provoked, provoked from outside,” he added. “But we know that our opponents in the Ukrainian regime, the Kyiv regime, as well as those in European countries, are capable of various types of provocation.”
When Moldova became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia send its military troops to Transnistria to lend support to pro-Moscow separatists in the region. Following this, a war with Moldovan forces broke out. It ended in deadlock in 1992 and Transnistria was not recognized internationally, even by Russia. Moldovan forces left it a de facto breakaway state.
Now, about 500,000 inhabitants of the breakaway region are in a state of limbo as reportedly Chisinau does not hold control over it even to this day.
Moldova’s former PM Natalia Gavrilita resigned from the top post on 10 February while sharing how her government was caught off guard by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In her outgoing speech, Gavrilita said that no one expected Moscow’s aggression when her government came into power in 2021.
On 16 February, pro-West Dorin Recean was sworn in after winning the support of the Moldovian Parliament. Once again a pro-EU PM at the helm of the Moldovian government is causing a further rift between Russia and the European nation.