The situation in Moldova is currently tense. The country is shaken by opposition protests. Russian missiles fly over Moldova. What awaits Moldova in the short term?
On February 9, 2023, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced at the EU summit in Brussels that Ukrainian intelligence had intercepted the Kremlin’s plans to take control of Moldova.
Later, the president of Moldova, Maia Sandu, confirmed Russia’s plans to carry out a coup d’état in Moldova: under the guise of peaceful protests, the Russians are preparing an attempt to seize power in Chisinau. As reported by the local publication Newsmaker, the protests were organized by the pro-Russian populist Șor party.
At the end of February 2023, on the initiative this political party thousands of people took to the streets of Chişinău, protesters also blocked the freeway north of the city, and public transport traffic was paralyzed in the capital itself.
At that time, the Ministry of Defense of Russia published a statement that the authorities of Ukraine were «preparing a provocation» against unrecognized Transnistria, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Zakharova declared about the «dirty bomb» that Ukraine is preparing for Transnistria.
What the Russian mass media say about Moldova and unrecognized Transnistria?
If you analyze what the Russian media write about the situation around Moldova and the unrecognized Transnistria, you can see a tendency to incite and accuse Ukraine of preparing provocations.
For example, the Russian state-controlled media RT writes that Ukraine is moving troops to the border with Transnistria.
Online newspaper Lenta.ru also writes about the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops in this direction.
Another media, MK.RU, also talks about «Kyiv’s goals in provocations against Transnistria», and discusses «the desire of Ukraine and the USA to open a second front».
RT presents the pro-Russian rallies organized by the Șor party as «the struggle of the opposition against the dictator.»
Also, this media writes all the news about the political situation in Moldova from the words of the leader of the Șor party, Ilan Șor (a businessman who is wanted internationally in the case of theft of $1 billion from the banking system of Moldova). No alternative or different views, only one Russian-relevant, point of view.
For example, Ilan Șor said that the president of Moldova, Maia Sandu, wants to drag Moldova into a war.
What do Western media say about Moldova and the unrecognized Transnistria?
Western media talk about the Kremlin’s threat to Moldova and Transnistria.
The Washington Post writes about fears that Moscow wants to start a new military conflict in Moldova.
The New York Times also talks about Russia’s plans to destabilize the situation in Moldova.
The Economist analyzes possible scenarios of the development of events: the annexation of Transnistria by Russia, an attack on the Ukrainian city of Odesa.
The German news website Spiegel points to Putin’s plans to destabilize the situation and open a second front in Moldova. “Moldova is seeking to join the European Union, but Russia is doing everything it can to destabilize the small republic”, — states the author.
The Spanish edition by DW also reports on the threat from Russia: «Currently, it [Moldova — author] is threatened militarily by Russia due to the presence of Russian troops on its territory, in the pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria.»
Why is Russia shaking up the situation in Moldova and unrecognized Transnistria?
On the second of March, 2023 main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine named two goals of the Kremlin:
- divert the attention of the world community from the great war in Ukraine;
- to demonstrate at least some «victory» to the Russians.
What threatens to destabilize the situation in Moldova and Transnistria?
«Russia pursues two main goals. The first is to create tension on the southwestern borders of Ukraine and divert forces and attention from other directions. The forces of the Russian group and the illegal armed formations of Transnistria are not sufficient for independent large-scale operations. They were not involved in a more critical situation when the Russian troops were approaching Mykolaiv, so under the current conditions, they will hardly dare to take military action.
The second target is directly the Republic of Moldova. And the statements of the Russian Ministry of Defense regarding possible provocations from Ukraine, which were made in February, 2023 and the current statements of the so-called the «Ministry of State Security of the PMR» about the alleged disclosure of an attempt on the leaders of Transnistria coincides with the protest activity of the pro-Russian opposition in Moldova. Russia aims to remove from power the current pro-Western leadership of Moldova and the coming to power of forces loyal to Russia. Provocations in Transnistria in this context, they provide an opportunity for the pro-Russian opposition to exploit to cover the topic of the threat of war», — states Artem Filipenko, an expert at the National Institute of Strategic Studies.
What is Transnistria?
The Transnistrian Moldavian Republic is a self-proclaimed state on the territory of Transnistria, which the international community recognizes as part of Republic of Moldova. It occupies almost the entire Moldavian part of the left bank of the Dniester, as well as several settlements on the right bank of the river. It borders Ukraine in the northeast, and Moldova in the southwest.
According to military expert Pavlo Narozhny, in unrecognized Transnistria there are warehouses with military equipment that the Russians evacuated from the German Democratic Republic in the eighties. “We are talking about hundreds of thousands of tons of ammunition, tens of thousands of pieces of equipment. However, its use can be complicated due to the river that has to be forded, as well as the damaged bridge”.*
* We will not state how much equipment and ammunition is stored in warehouses in Transnistria, since the information differs from source to source, but we will quote the representative of the Head Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Andriy Chernyak: «Russians have a very limited contingent in Transnistria. There are warehouses that they guard. But there is almost nothing left in those warehouses, and what is left is old and unusable».
Moldova found itself in a difficult situation. On the one hand, pro-Russian views are strong in the country, which are also due to the weakness of the political elite, which has long been focused on cooperation with the Russian Federation. On the other hand, the reformist authorities of Moldova are now under serious pressure due to the rise in prices for energy resources, which were almost completely supplied from the Russian Federation and from the territory of Transnistria. The weakness of our own military forces also does not contribute to taking a principled position on the de-occupation of Transnistria.
Thus, Moldova is now one of the points of contradiction between the EU and the Russian Federation. The promised financial assistance to Moldova may stabilize the situation, but the internal political situation still largely depends on external factors, such as Russian influence through the party of Ilan Șor or the military presence of Russian «peacekeepers» in Transnistria.