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Moldova Ready for ‘Pessimistic’ Scenarios but Sees no Imminent Threat of Unrest

Moldovan President Maia Sandu speaks during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Chisinau, Moldova March 6, 2022. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS/
Moldovan President Maia Sandu speaks during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Chisinau, Moldova March 6, 2022. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS/

Moldova sees no imminent threat of unrest spilling over from the war in Ukraine despite "provocations" by pro-Russian separatists in recent days, but has been making contingency plans for "pessimistic" scenarios, President Maia Sandu said on Wednesday.

Fears have grown in the past week that Moldova could be drawn into the conflict in neighbouring Ukraine, after pro-Russian separatists in a breakaway region reported a number of attacks and explosions there, which they blamed on Kyiv.

Sandu and her pro-Western government have blamed incidents in the breakaway region on "pro-war" separatist factions. She has also denounced comments by a Russian general that one of Moscow's war aims was to seize Ukrainian territory to link up with the separatists in Moldova.

Kyiv has accused Moscow of trying to drag Moldova into the war. The Kremlin has expressed "concern" over the situation in Moldova's separatist region, where Russia has stationed hundreds of troops since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Asked on Wednesday whether she was worried about unrest in coming days, Sandu said through an interpreter: "We see no imminent threat for the nearest future, but of course we have contingency plans for such scenarios, which are less optimistic or which are pessimistic."

She repeated her description of the unrest as "provocations" by separatists, and said Moldova's police were doing what they could on their side of the Dniestr river to ensure stability.

She was speaking at a press conference alongside Charles Michel, president of the European Union's council of national leaders, who visited to express solidarity with a country on the frontline of the Ukraine war.

Michel said the EU was considering additional military support to Moldova this year, although he declined to provide details.

"We will help Moldova to strengthen your resilience," said Michel. But he added: "We do think it's important to avoid any escalation. It's not intelligent to express provocative statements about the situation in Moldova."

Moldova, a country of around 2.6 million people wedged between Ukraine and Romania, has taken a decisive pro-Western political turn since Sandu took office at the end of 2020, defeating a Moscow-aligned incumbent.

The country has an ethnic Romanian majority but a large and influential Russian-speaking minority, and close economic ties to Moscow. A brief war in the early 1990s saw separatists declare an independent state in a Russian-speaking area along the Dniestr river, a conflict that has never been resolved.

Sandu's government applied to join the EU on March 3 this year, a week after Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian TV news broadcasts are banned in Moldova, and in recent weeks it banned the orange and black ribbon worn by supporters of the Russian invasion, after a parliamentary vote boycotted by the pro-Russian opposition.

Michel said the EU was working hard to evaluate Moldova's application to join the bloc, although he described the procedure as "complex".

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