The Vladimir Putin Nightmare That Blew Up in Moldova While We Weren’t Looking

Russian rocket is landing less than 100 miles away Moldova’s border. Mysterious explosions rocked the headquarters of a security agency in the Russian-backed breakaway region last month. An economic crisis is looming. And a Russian general has threatened to expand the war in Ukraine to the Moldova border.

Unlike other western neighbors are getting Ukrainian refugees, Moldova is not a member of the European Union, and it does not have the resources the bloc has to accommodate and absorb the rapid influx of asylum seekers. However, Moldova has received more Ukrainian refugees per capita than any other EU Statein a mounting crisis that has raised fears that the small southeastern European country could become the first site of violence to spread from Ukraine.

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

Since the first Russian bombs fell on the city of Ukraine Odesa On February 24, Moldova, a country of about 2.6 million people, took in more than 400,000 refugees escaping Vladimir Putin’s brutal war. Most end up in transit to other countries, but about 100,000 people remain. Ukrainians who escaped violence to Moldova were warmly welcomed; Volunteers awaited the refugees with homemade food, a friendly hug and accommodation in their own homes. But resources are limited.

Moldova has practically no army, its security threats are great, and there is an economic crisis.

Unlike Germany, where the average monthly salary is around 3,900 euros, Moldovans earn around 500 euros a month. It is an agrarian country whose economy depends largely on fruit and vegetable exports to Russia via Ukraine, a trade that has now ceased due to the war next door. The prices of food, clothing and gasoline have skyrocketed during the 77-day war.

In addition, Moldova has recently been rocked by a series of mysterious explosions in the breakaway territory of Transnistria, home to some 1,500 Russian troops. “We were extremely worried,” Popeskto said. “There is a wide range of scenarios, threats and risks.”

Ukrainian refugees wait to cross the border on April 9.

Matteo Placucci / NurPhoto via Getty

Just days before the explosion, senior Russian commander Rustam Minnekayev talked about linking the breakaway region of Moldova with the Russian-occupied zone in Ukraine along the Black Sea, essentially showing the extending the conflict to Moldova. It remains unclear who is behind the rocket grenade attacks on the headquarters of the Transnistria security service and several Soviet-era radio towers. Moldova’s reformist president, Maya Sandu, condemned the attacks as “an attempt to coax the Republic of Moldova into taking actions that might endanger the peace”.

Authorities say that there is no imminent risk of Russia expanding the war, but the fear that Moldova could become the next Ukraine is certainly coming to the people. The country already has its own internal displaced people, moving west to avoid possible attacks. Popescu told The Daily Beast thousands of people have been displaced since the war began in Ukraine.

Ukrainian refugees hug each other after being reunited on their way back to Ukraine along the Ukraine-Moldova border on April 12.

Christophe Archambault / AFP via Getty

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

Moldova Newsmaker founder Vladimir Solovyev told The Daily Beast that Moldova’s problems are “piling up” rapidly and that the West should realize that “Moldova has practically no army, no threats, no threats.” Its security threat is huge, and there is an economic crisis.”

Moldova has allies in Europe. The EU Parliament has passed a resolution welcoming Moldova’s registration, signed by President Sandu earlier this year. But every application takes time. “Every Moldovan organization — our intelligence ministry, our defense ministry, our economy ministry, our police — everyone is on the highest alert,” Popescu said.

“Our society strongly voted for independence, for democracy, to join the European Union as soon as possible,” the minister told The Daily Beast. “Most Moldovan citizens, as well as people in Transnistria, want peace. We hear voices from Russia – some ideas about rebuilding the Soviet Union. But the Soviet Union is dead.”

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