Kyiv says it will 'firmly respond' if Moscow attempts to involve Transnistria in the war

Kyiv will "firmly respond" to any attempts to involve the Russian-controlled Moldovan region of Transnistria in Russia's war against Ukraine and destabilize the situation in Moldova, the Foreign Ministry said amid increased Russian pressure on the Eastern European country.

Transnistria is internationally recognized as part of Moldova. Russian troops have occupied Transnistria since the early 1990s when Russia invaded the region under the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians.

Moldova has called Russia's military presence in Transnistria illegitimate and called for the withdrawal of Russian forces.

There have been heightened tensions between Moldova and Transnistria since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine when there were fears that armed conflict could erupt in Moldova.

Vadim Krasnoselsky, the Russian proxy leader in Transnistria, called for increased military drills and heightened readiness on Jan. 22 in what he claimed was a response to alleged provocations from Moldova.

Ukraine's special envoy, Paun Rohovei, traveled to Moldova on Feb. 19 to meet with Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration of Moldova Oleg Serebrian and Krasnoselsky.

The officials discussed the current status of the Transnistrian conflict and other issues in the relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry wrote in a press release.

Kyiv has backed a peaceful settlement of the conflict with the preservation of Moldova's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

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"In addition, Ukraine continues to advocate for a quick withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of the Transnistrian region, disposal of ammunition in warehouses in Cobasna, and reformatting of the mission on the Dniester River from a military to civilian one," reads the ministry's press release.

Kyiv also reiterated its position against the 5+2 format of negotiations on the Transnistrian conflict, as it includes Russia. Established in 2005, the negotiation platform comprises Moldova and Transnistria as parties to the conflict, Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) as mediators, and the EU and the U.S. as observers.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry added that Moldova's accession into the European Union will create "new opportunities for both banks of the Dniester, development, and prosperity of the inhabitants of all Moldova."

Read also: Moldova’s security chief says Russia spent $55 million on destabilization campaign

The EU agreed to open membership talks with Ukraine and its neighboring state, Moldova, on Dec. 14, 2023. As Moldova has shifted toward the EU under President Maia Sandu's leadership, Russia has continued to put pressure on the country.

Sandu said that Russia, with the direct support of the late Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenary group, tried to foment a coup against the Moldovan government in February 2023.

Moscow has reportedly wielded a variety of tools against Moldova, including weaponizing energy supplies, cyber attacks, and directly threatening the country with unrest from the Russian-controlled Transnistria.

Read also: Investigation: Leaked document exposes Kremlin’s 10-year plan to undermine Moldova

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