The Moldovan Foreign Ministry has urged Russia to respect its neutrality after a Russian general openly announced his intention to occupy the breakaway region of Transnistria.
Brigadier General Rustam Minnekayev said April 22 that the Russian military planned to take Ukraine’s Donbass region and then create land corridors to Crimea and Transnistria.
“Since the beginning of the second phase of the special operation, which has already started, literally two days ago, one of the tasks of the Russian army has been to establish full control over Donbass and the south of Ukraine,” said Acting Commander Minnekayev. of Russia’s Central Military District, as reported by Tass.
“This [control over the Donbas region] will provide a land corridor to Crimea, as well as influence vital facilities in Ukraine [military forces]the Black Sea ports through which agricultural and metallurgical products are delivered to [other] country,” he continued.
“Control of southern Ukraine is another way out of Pridnestrovie [Transnistria], where there are also facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population. Apparently we are now at war with the whole world, as it was in the Great Patriotic War, all of Europe, the whole world was against us. And now the same, they never liked Russia,” added Minnekayev.
The Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration responded later on April 22 by summoning the Russian Ambassador to Chisinau, Oleg Vasnetov. The ministry said it took note of the statements by the “representative of the Russian Defense Ministry”.
“These statements are baseless and contradict the position of the Russian Federation supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, within its internationally recognized borders,” the statement said.
“During the meeting, it was reiterated that the Republic of Moldova, according to its Constitution, is a neutral state and that this principle must be respected by all international actors, including the Russian Federation.”
What role for Transnistria in the war in Ukraine?
Transnistria is a long, thin strip of land between the Dniester River and Moldova’s border with Ukraine that has been de facto independent since a civil war that ended in July 1992. It enjoys political, economic and Russia’s military, although neither Russia nor any other state has officially recognized it as independent.
Since the invasion, there has been speculation that – as Russian-backed territory on Ukraine’s western flank, with Russian troops stationed inside – Transnistria could be used to open a new front in the war in Ukraine. This was fueled by a video of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko with a battle map that appeared to indicate Moldova was part of Russia’s invasion plans.
In early March, reports from Transnistria indicated that Ukraine had blown up a railway bridge that would have helped the Russian army in the unrecognized republic to cross the border into Ukraine.
However, the Russian military presence in Transnistria is very small with only around 1,400 soldiers.
The Moldovan government has said since the invasion that there were no signs of preparations for an attack from Transnistria.
Earlier in April, Chisinau denied claims by the Ukrainian General Staff that Russian troops in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria had been redeployed along the border with Ukraine, to prepare for a potential attack. which could open another front in the war.
While Russia vehemently opposes Ukraine ever realizing its hope of joining NATO, Moldova, unlike Ukraine, has declared its neutrality and expressed no ambition to join. Alliance. Moldova has also not signed on to sanctions against Russia, although it has taken steps to ensure it is not used as a conduit to evade sanctions.
However, like Ukraine, since the start of the war, Moldova has officially applied for membership of the European Union.
Minnekayev’s disturbing and controversial comment came on the same day that Moldova submitted its first questionnaire for EU membership.
President Maia Sandu tweeted on April 222: “Today #Moldova submitted the 1st questionnaire for #EU membership to EU Ambassador @JanisMazeiks as we get closer to our candidacy to EU membership. We are ready to do our part quickly and diligently to give Moldova a chance for a better, safer and more prosperous future.