Russia plans to take control of the separatist Moldovan region of Transnistria by establishing a ‘land corridor’ directly from Russia across southern Ukraine into Moldova, according to a statement by a Russian general reported by Russian state news site TASS.
Brigadier General Rustam Minnekayev said that the Russian military has begun a second phase of the war with the goal of securing continuous control from Ukraine’s Donbas, along southern Ukraine, to include the large port city of Odessa, across to the separatist region of Moldova Transnistria to Ukraine’s west.
“Apparently we are now at war with the whole world,” the general said, asserting that Russia’s ultimate goal was to establish an outlet to the Russian mainland for separatists in Moldova. The general’s remarks were given at a Union of Defense Ministries meeting in Russia Friday.
In line with the Kremlin narrative, General Minnekayev said that the Russian army is fighting against the oppression of Russian-speaking populations and claimed that Russia is not the instigator of the war. He also stated that the Russian forces have not suffered any losses when striking. NATO estimates that around 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the attacks on Ukraine since late February.
Moldova, a small ex-Soviet republic that is not a member of NATO, has been mostly standing by during the war on Ukraine. Some refugee Ukrainians have relocated to Moldova since the war began.
In 1992 at the fall of the USSR, some Moldovans, including ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, hoped to remain Soviet and occupied a small sliver of the land bordering Ukraine. After some fighting in the 1990s, the region has mostly maintained a cease-fire, although it has never been internationally recognized as independent.
The region’s efforts to remain autonomous have meant it primarily relies on trade with Russia, mirroring the relationship between Belarus and Russia. Russia has maintained a continuous, albeit small, military presence in Transnistria, with an estimated 1,500 soldiers stationed there currently.
Russian state media reported Monday that there were ‘blasts’ from a grenade launcher aimed at the Transnistrian security headquarters. Moldovan government officials quickly responded by saying the activities were intended to raise tensions and create a pretext for more Russian involvement in the region.