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Moscow set its sights on Moldova last week when a Russian general said its goal was to gain “full control” over not only eastern Ukraine, but regions along its southern that sit above the Black Sea.
This would allow Russia to gain better access to Transnistria, an unrecognized breakaway state in Moldova with sympathetic ties to Russia.
“We are alarmed by the escalation of tension in Transnistria, where in recent days there have been several incidents of shelling, blowing up social and infrastructure facilities,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday. “We regard these actions as acts of terrorism aimed at destabilizing the situation.”
Zakharova’s comments came after explosions were reported in the separatist region this week, one reportedly hitting the Ministry of State Security in the city of Tiraspol, the region’s capital.
A second target was reported Tuesday after radio antennas that broadcast Russian programs in Maiac, a town around seven miles from Moldova’s border with Ukraine, were struck down.
But despite a history of tense relations, Moldova and Transnistria have held a treaty agreement since 1992 and signs of a thawing Cold War mentality were evident even earlier this year.
As part of the 1992 peace treaty, Russia has maintained a presence in Transnistria with roughly 1,500 Russian troops stationed there as “peacekeepers.”
The similarities shared by the Moldovan breakaway region and the Ukrainian self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in the Donbas – which served as Putin’s justification for his illegal invasion in February – has many concerned.
Reports surfaced this week suggesting that officials in the region suspect Russia was behind the attacks in Transnistria as a guise to support a second illegal invasion.
“We strongly condemn attempts to involve Transnistria in what is happening in Ukraine,” Russia’s spokesperson claimed Thursday. “Every now and then sensational statements are heard from there about the preparation of Russian peacekeepers, the Tiraspol airfield, Transnistria conscripts for some kind of offensive actions.
“But all these statements do not cast doubt on the fact that the situation on the left bank of the Dniester, including in the security zone, is reliably controlled by the joint peacekeeping forces,” she added.
Zakharova’s comments echo sentiments expressed by Russia in the lead-up to its invasion in February, which it has dubbed a “special military operation.”
Putin has claimed its troops will liberate Russian supporters that it alleges, without evidence, have been oppressed by regional authorities.