The Washington Post

Moldovan leader fears Russia may invade

- BY JENNIFER HASSAN

Moldova is “very worried” about a potential Russian invasion as Russian forces prepare to step up attacks in Ukraine’s east and south, close to the border with the small nation of 2.5 million.

Moldova’s prime minister, Natalia Gavrilita, said the possibilit­y that her country could be the next to be invaded on orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin “is a hypothetic­al scenario for now.”

“But if the military actions move further into the southweste­rn part of Ukraine and toward Odessa, then of course we are very worried,” she said in an interview Sunday with CNN.

Moldova, which remains militarily neutral, split from the Soviet Union and gained independen­ce in 1991. It has publicly condemned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled there from across the border.

“We had to deal very quickly with a massive refugee flow,” Gavrilita said, adding that recent polling revealed a significan­t majority of Moldovans were willing to take in even more displaced people.

The energy supply of Moldova, considered one of the world’s poorest countries, is controlled by Russia, and the nation has long expressed concern over Russia’s next step in the conflict. Putin’s war next door poses Moldova’s most direct challenge to date, as The Washington Post reported earlier this year.

After Ukraine, Moldova has been hit hardest economical­ly since Russia’s invasion, Gavrilita said, citing high inflation.

Moldova was granted candidate status to join the European Union alongside Ukraine last month.

The two nations will have to go through a lengthy process to become members and are expected to meet certain criteria.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the move to grant candidate status strengthen­ed Ukraine and Moldova “in the face of Russian aggression” along with the European Union and sent a strong signal to Putin.

In April, a Russian military commander suggested that Moscow would seek to create a corridor through Ukraine’s south to Transnistr­ia, a breakaway republic in eastern Moldova. Following the remarks, Moldova summoned Russia’s ambassador to express “deep concern.”

Gavrilita expressed alarm Sunday that Russian troops “are on the territory of the secessioni­st Transnistr­ia region,” and warned that other countries should also be concerned about Putin’s ambitions.

“If a country can start an annexation war without any regard for internatio­nal law, then in this sense, nobody is safe,” said the prime minister, who took office in August last year. “I think a lot of countries are worried.”

Gavrilita added that Moldova is doing “everything possible to maintain peace and stability and to ensure that the fighting does not escalate.”

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