Transnistria explosions spark fears Ukraine conflict will spread to Moldova
Three days of alleged attacks in Transnistria, the contested region of Moldova seized by Russia, are raising fears of a deeper conflict spilling over from Ukraine.
There have been reports of explosions and shots in Tiraspol, Maiac, Parcani and Cobasna.
Pro-Russian separatists blamed Ukraine and Moldova’s pro-western government accused Russian forces in the enclave with approximately 470,000 residents. Russia has controlled Transnistria since a short 1992 war with Moldova. Around 1,500 Russian troops are normally deployed in the enclave.
The need for the Kremlin to retain garrisons in disputed territory, including the Kuril Islands, which were seized from Japan after the Second World War finished, has limited the availability of troops in Ukraine.
Moldova has reported that more than 400,000 Ukrainians have crossed its border since the February 24 invasion. Moldova only has 2.6 million citizens.
Transnistrian independence is not recognised by the Moldovan government or the international community.
Moldova is heavily dependent on Soviet-era electricity and gas networks that cross Transnistria from Russia.
On Monday, the Transnistrian authorities said an explosion was reported at the micro-state’s security headquarters in Tiraspol, the main city, apparently caused by a grenade-launcher attack.
On Wednesday, the enclave’s interior ministry announced that “several drones” from Ukraine flew over Cobasna.
“Shots were fired from the Ukrainian side in the direction of Cobasna,” the ministry said, referring to one of Europe’s largest ammunition depots.
Transnistria’s authorities announced measures, including extra checkpoints, increased police powers and checks.
Since the attacks, the wait to get into Transnistria has become much longer as security has increased, according to a Moldovan police officer called Vitalie, who only gave one name.
Moldova’s former deputy prime minister, Vlad Kulminski, said the impoverished country’s future depends on Ukrainian resistance to Russia.
“Our future as an independent state does depend to a great degree on how successful Ukraine is in fighting for its independence and resisting and ultimately surviving as an independent state,” the former negotiator said.
“Everybody is very worried… Moldova is in a state of weakness, this country doesn’t really have what you would know as resilience, an ability to resist these shocks.”
Russian troops patrol the “border” between Moldova and Transnistria, concentrating government minds.
Moldova, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has sought to fast-track its membership of the European Union, although this is expected to be years away.
But it has not asked for Nato protection and lacks a proper armed forces.
Tiraspol. Picture credit: Wikimedia