Moldova’s foreign minister has told Sky News that the future of his country and Europe depends on how the war in Ukraine ends.
In a frank interview from his office in the capital Chisinau, Nicu Popescu revealed that:
- Moldova is on a “heightened state of alert”
- the future of Moldova and Europe rests on a Ukrainian victory
- ‘”forces” in the breakaway region of Transnistria “staged a provocation”
- Moldova is “not at the stage of talking about weapons supplies” but is cooperating closely with Western partners
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On the importance of a Ukrainian victory over Russia, Mr Popescu said: “The future of the entire continent rests on the capacity of Ukraine to maintain its political system, its country, its resilience.
“And in this sense, the fate and the future of every country in this part of the world, of the entire Europe, depends on how this war ends; on where it ends and when it ends.”
Mr Popescu said that last week’s unexplained attacks in the breakaway region of Transnistria increased the risks to Moldova.
“Moldova has been in a very difficult region at a very difficult time. We are Ukraine’s most fragile neighbour, of course, we’ve been affected in multiple ways,” he said.
“And now, of course, we see that the situation is getting worse… in the last few days, with some explosions taking place in the Transnistrian region of Moldova, we are also increasingly affected by this regional destabilisation.”
On Monday, three men fired rocket-propelled grenades at a state security office in the breakaway region in the east of Moldova which is aligned with Russia and borders Ukraine.
The foreign minister said the attacks were a “staged provocation” but he would not be drawn on precisely who he believes was responsible.
“We don’t know. Legally the Transnistrian region part of Moldova, [but] de facto our authorities don’t have control. So we don’t control, we don’t have access to CCTV cameras, to forensics. We have some working hypothesis, but we are not in a situation to attribute clear responsibility for these attacks.”
The foreign minister, who is also deputy prime minister, said: “Our understanding is that whereas the absolute majority of residents of Transnistria want to live in a peaceful environment and they don’t want to end up in the war zone, there are nonetheless forces inside Transnistria which hope to benefit from rising tensions, and they have staged this provocation, which was the attack in Tiraspol.”
Last week, a Russian general published a four point plan for the next stage of its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine that specifically mentioned Transnistria.
The plan raised the prospect of uniting Russian forces as they attempt to push west from eastern Ukraine with a regiment of Russian troops already based in Transnistria.
Around 1,000 Russian troops have been based, ostensibly as peacekeepers, in the unrecognised republic since it broke away from Moldova in 1992.
Attacks in contested region of Transnistria raise fears of Ukraine war spreading
On preparations for a possible Russian incursion into Transnistria or even into the rest of Moldova, Mr Popescu said: “Statements such as the one made by this Russian general are really worrying.
“It’s of course, completely unhelpful, if it creates new tensions. Formerly, the Russian Federation dissociated themselves from this statement.
“So formally, Russia says that position has not been an agreed message, at the same time we all know that the situation is quite volatile.
“It’s risky. We constantly see voices inside Russia calling on bigger and more ambitious war aims.
“At the same time, it’s also clear that the war in Ukraine has not been going according to plan. So here, intentions can be intentions, but the realities on the ground always tend to differ.”
Moldova is a neutral nation and the foreign minister said that would not change.
He was more nuanced on how neutrality is compatible with self-defence but wouldn’t be drawn on whether Moldova would ask for western military support.
“Neutrality does not exclude and prevent us from cooperating on security, on foreign policy, on defence matters,” he said.
“We’re not at the stage of talking about weapons supplies, but of course for a long time we’ve had very good cooperative links between our ministry of defence and our partners, between our police and our partners and those conversations still continue and there are projects where our military cooperates with NATO’s member states.”
Pushed on the issue, he said: “Listen, we’re not in a position of now prejudging how things will evolve. I’ll tell you very frankly that it’s also dangerous to prejudge and speculate.
“But we are nonetheless preparing and we have been preparing for all possible contingencies.
“And what exactly we do within this preparation, we prefer not to discuss in details when it comes to things or to the future, which we, of course, cannot predict.”