A series of mysterious bombings took place in Transnistria, Moldova’s pro-Kremlin separatist territory where Russian troops are stationed, raising fears that Russian invasion Ukraine may spread to other countries in the region.
Moldova is facing a “very dangerous new moment”, Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Nicu Papescu said on Thursday, warning of unnamed forces trying to disperse tensions in Transnistria, a narrow strip of land bordering Ukraine.
Transnistria declared independence from Moldova in 1990 and de facto governs itself independently of Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, but is not recognized internationally.
The attacks came days after a Russian military commander signaled that Moscow could seek a route to Moldova. The “second stage” of the military operation.
“Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out of Transnistria, where there is also evidence of oppression of the Russian-speaking population,” said Rustam Minnekaev, acting commander of Russia’s Central Military District, which is the most direct threat to Moldova. voiced by Russian officials to date.
Russian President Vladimir Putin used alleged discrimination against Russian-speakers in Ukraine as justification in late February launch a brutal attack on Ukrainian cities.
This week, Transnistrian authorities said the blasts were aimed at the headquarters of the Ministry of State Security in Tiraspol, the capital of the separatist territory; a military unit in the village of Partzany; and two radio stations that relayed Russian news, Transnistrian authorities said.
On Wednesday, local media reported an incident involving shootings near Russian weapons and ammunition depots on the outskirts of the village of Kobasna.
No one took responsibility for the attack at once, no one was injured. But Transnistrian officials pointed the finger at Ukraine.
“We have imposed a special state of emergency: the Red Terrorist Attack,” Transnistrian Foreign Minister Vitaly Ignatiev told Russia’s Interfax news agency. “According to preliminary data, the traces of the organizers of the attacks lead to Ukraine.”
Moldovan President Maya Sandu said on Tuesday that the attacks were an attempt to escalate tensions, and blamed “pro-war groups” and clashes in the separatist administration.
“We condemn any challenges and attempts to involve the Republic of Moldova in actions that could threaten peace in the country,” Sandu said. “Chisinau continues to insist on a peaceful settlement of the Transnistrian conflict.”
Moldova has accepted hundreds of thousands Ukrainian refugees since the start of the war on 24 February. Her government condemned Russia’s war and applied to join the European Union along with Georgia and Ukraine. He also seeks support from the EU in the fight against the influx of refugees and calls on the bloc to strengthen support for the country.
But it is also trying to carefully balance its neutral position with NATO to signal that it does not want to become Russia’s next target.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s defense ministry said the alleged attacks in Transnistria were a provocation organized by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).
“We clearly understand that this is one of the steps of the Russian Federation. There are special services. It’s not just fake news. The goal is obvious – to destabilize the situation in the region, to threaten Moldova. They show that if Moldova supports Ukraine, there will be some steps, ”Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday.
The Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), an open source intelligence and military analysis team that monitored the invasion of Ukraine, said at a daily briefing: “We see tensions in the region continue to escalate. The President of the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic, Vadim Krasnoselsky, says he does not want to involve his country in this war. At the same time, we see that in Tiraspol and other places in Transnistria, checkpoints are beginning to appear on the concerns of Moldova. ”
“Our assumption, although not yet confirmed, is that Krasnoselsky is under pressure from the local Ministry of State Security, which is probably the local branch of the FSB, and is somehow pushing him to war or mobilize.”
According to the CIT, there are about two battalion tactical groups at the Russian base in Transnistria. The general mobilization will allow the Russian troops to recruit about 10 more such groups.
“This may not significantly affect the situation in Ukraine, but may force the Ukrainian military to keep part of its forces near Odessa,” the CIT said. Odessa is a key port city in southern Ukraine that Russia has failed to capture in its campaign to make Ukraine landlocked.
Russian officials have publicly expressed concern over the events in Transnistria.
“We strongly condemn attempts to involve Transnistria in what is happening in Ukraine,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing on Thursday. “We call for restraint in Chisinau and Tiraspol and to return to a constructive search for optimal solutions to the agenda.”