As the war between Russia and Ukraine stretches on, there are concerns arising that Russia may be setting its sights on countries beyond Ukraine as a “phase two” of its war.
Russian forces have begun to focus more on the southern region of Ukraine and the Donbas region, the conflicted eastern region of Ukraine, with parts controlled by Russian-backed separatists, Sky News reported. But there also seems to be a movement toward Moldova.
With Russia shifting its focus to the Donbas, there are indications that Russian forces will also seek to gain access to Transnistria, a region of Moldova that is a breakaway “state” that is aligned with Russia, NBC News reported.
Russian military says its new goals include “control over southern Ukraine” & “access to Transnistria, where there’s also persecution of the Russian-speaking population.”
Which paints a big target on Mykolaiv & Odesa… https://t.co/5JerpVITdM pic.twitter.com/jXVmGqJeNA
— Alec Luhn (@ASLuhn) April 22, 2022
Transnistria has a paramilitary force that is armed, supervised and supplied by Russia, the former head of Moldova’s Border Police said.
The region is also subsidized with Russian gas, electricity and social programs.
As Russia tries to push forward through southern Ukraine, Russia’s Central Military District (CFD) command said that they want a way into Transnistria to protect Russian separatists there.
“Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria,” Rustam Minnekayev, acting commander of the CFD, Deutsche Welle News reported.
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Minnekayev claimed there is evidence of “oppression” of the Russian-speaking population in Transnistria.
The worry is that, with Transnistria’s apparent wish to be annexed by Russia, that could threaten Moldova.
“Transnistria’s government, which has seceded, calls for Russia to annex it. If that happens, Moldova, which last year elected an openly pro-Western government, could be next, experts and local officials say,” NBC News reported.
Since Transnistria is a region that has not been recognized as its own state and is internationally seen as a part of Moldova, many are seeing this as a Russian encroachment on Moldova, just like the international community largely saw the Russian engagement in the Donbas as an incursion on Ukraine.
!!!! “Access to Transnistria” is actually access to Moldova. A small, vulnerable nation without NATO or EU protection. https://t.co/E3VhQeM4WR
— Bianna Golodryga (@biannagolodryga) April 22, 2022
Many have said that even if Russia only takes control of the Donbas and the southern region of Ukraine, the Russian influence on Moldova will be significant.
“Through elections and through tensions on elections, if they take the south of Ukraine, Russian influence will be huge in Moldova,” Anatolie Golea, a political journalist and founder of the Infotag News Agency, told NBC News.
With Moldova’s position as a very poor state having no protection from the European Union or NATO membership, there are concerns over how vulnerable the country is to Russian control.
Other than the Transnistria region, many Moldovans want to be part of the EU, which makes the possibility of Russian influence more threatening.
NBC News reported that a poll showed that 61 percent of Moldovans want to become part of the EU. In March, just after the invasion of Ukraine, Moldovan President Maia Sandu signed a formal application for EU membership.