The nightmare of Vladimir Putin exploding in Moldova while we weren’t looking

Russian missiles land less than 100 miles from Moldova’s borders. Mysterious explosions rocked the headquarters of a security agency in the country’s Russian-backed separatist enclave last month. An economic crisis is imminent. And a Russian general has threatened to escalate the war in Ukraine to the Moldovan border.

Unlike other western neighbors who are taking in Ukrainian refugees, Moldova is not a member of the European Union and does not have the resources the bloc has to absorb and house the rapid flow of asylum seekers. Still, Moldova has taken in more Ukrainian refugees per capita than any other EU state, in a spate of crises that have sparked fears that the small south-eastern European country could become the first site of spillover violence from Ukraine.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Moldova’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Nicu Popescu, called on the United States and the EU to pay more attention to Moldova’s struggle to maintain the country’s economy and security. He called for “flexible and quick help for Ukraine’s most vulnerable neighbor”.

Since the first Russian bombs fell on the Ukrainian city of Odessa on February 24, Moldova, a country of around 2.6 million people, has taken in more than 400,000 refugees escaping Vladimir Putin’s devastating war. Most eventually emigrate to other countries, but around 100,000 have stayed. Ukrainians fleeing violence in Moldova were warmly welcomed; Volunteers awaited refugees with home-cooked food, a warm hug, and accommodation in private homes. But resources are strained.

“Moldova has practically no army, its security threats are enormous and it is in economic crisis.”

Unlike in Germany, where the average monthly wage is around 3,900 euros, Moldovans earn around 500 euros a month. It’s an agrarian country with an economy largely dependent on fruit and vegetable exports to Russia through Ukraine, a trade now stalled by the war next door. Food, clothing and petrol prices rose dramatically during the 77-day war.

In addition, Moldova was recently rocked by a series of mysterious explosions in its breakaway territory of Transnistria, the base of some 1,500 Russian soldiers. “We were deeply concerned,” Popeskto said. “There is a spectrum of scenarios, threats and risks.”


Ukrainian refugees are waiting to cross the border on April 9th.

Matteo Placucci/NurPhoto via Getty

Just days before the blasts, senior Russian commander Rustam Minnekayev spoke of linking Moldova’s separatist territory with a Russian-held zone in Ukraine along the Black Sea, essentially suggesting the conflict would extend to Moldova. It is still unclear who was behind the grenade attacks on the headquarters of the Transnistrian security services and some Soviet-era radio towers. Reform-minded Moldovan President Maya Sandu condemned the attacks as “attempts to induce Moldova into actions that could endanger the peace”.

Authorities say there are no immediate risks of a widening Russian war, but fears that Moldova could become the next Ukraine certainly worries citizens. The country already has its own internally displaced people moving west away from possible attacks. Several thousand people have moved in Ukraine since the start of the war, Popescu told The Daily Beast.


Ukrainian refugees hug after reunification on their way back to Ukraine along the Ukraine-Moldova border April 12.

Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty

Moldova also faces internal political divisions. According to a study conducted by the CBS Research Agency with the help of the Moldovan Institute for Strategic Initiatives, only 40 percent of the population believe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was unprovoked, while 23 percent of Moldovans accept Russia’s justification for the war – the Moscow defends the Donbass region.

Founder of Moldovan media outlet Newsmaker, Vladimir Solovyev, told The Daily Beast that Moldova’s problems are “piling up” fast and that the West should realize that “Moldova has virtually no army, its security threats are huge, and there is one.” Economic crisis”.

Moldova has allies in Europe. The European Parliament adopted a resolution welcoming Moldova’s membership application, signed by President Sandu earlier this year. But every application takes time. “Every single Moldovan institution — our secret service, the defense ministry, our economy ministry, the police — are all on high alert,” Popescu said.

“Our society votes strongly for independence, for democracy and for joining the European Union as soon as possible,” the minister told The Daily Beast. “The absolute majority of Moldovan citizens, as well as the people of Transnistria, want peace. We hear voices from Russia – some ideas for rebuilding the Soviet Union. But the Soviet Union is dead.” The nightmare of Vladimir Putin exploding in Moldova while we weren’t looking


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