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EU to boost Moldova’s defences in face of Russia’s aggressive moves

Following a meeting between European Council President Charles Michel and the Moldovan head of state Maia Sandu, Mr Michel told the press that the EU will offer assistance for the country’s military, to help it defend itself in case of Russian aggression.

“The EU has offered comprehensive support to strengthen Moldova’s resilience and our support will continue to match the scope of the challenges,” said European Council President Charles Michel during a press conference following his May 4 meeting with Maia Sandu, President of Moldova, in the country’s capital of Chisinau.

The EC President and Ms Sandu discussed several matters, including humanitarian aid and financial support. According to the data of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as of May 3, there were 450,000 people who fled to Moldova in an attempt to escape the Russian aggression on Ukraine.

Moldova, a former Soviet Republic, asked to join the EU in early March 2022, and formally handed in the application form on April 22. The country’s European aspirations are supported by its neighbours in the region, and since March, the Moldovan electricity grid has been synchronised with the continental European grid, supporting the stability of the power systems. The EU will also assist the country in reforming its judiciary and combating corruption, which are important prerequisites for joining the EU.

But perhaps most importantly, Mr Michel and Ms Sandu discussed the matters of security and defence. Moldova is wedged between Romania, an EU and NATO country, and Ukraine, currently resisting a Russian invasion. What is more, part of the country on the left bank of the Dniester River, Transnistria, is under the control of a pro-Russian separatist regime, with a contingent of Russian armed forces stationed there.

“We will help Moldova to strengthen your resilience and to cope with the consequences of the spillover from the Russian aggression in Ukraine,” announced EC President Michel. In 2021, Moldova received a EUR 7-billion-worth aid package to be spent on equipment, medical, and the engineering needs of the Moldovan army. As Mr Michel stated, this year, the European community will “significantly increase [its] support to Moldova by providing [Moldovan] armed forces with additional military equipment.”

Maia Sandu, who was elected to the presidential post on a pro-EU platform in December 2020, stressed that “Moldova’s citizens want to live in peace and prosperity, in a country where their rights are respected. We chose European integration as our development model.” She said that her government’s and her people’s resolve to join the European Union has been strengthened by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of neighbouring Ukraine. “The danger and uncertainty of the war near us showed us, however, that we must defend our choice and walk firmly on the chosen path,” she said.

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Apart from hosting 450,000 refugees, a massive number considering that the population of the country itself is just 2.6 mln, Moldova now has to face the possible threat of an invasion from Russia itself. Earlier in the week British ‘The Times’ daily reported that Russia may use its forces in Transnistria to invade Moldova, which itself has an army of only 3,250 troops, in order to envelop the strategic Ukrainian port of Odesa, and facilitate its military takeover. According to Ukrainian intelligence, Russian forces stationed in Transnistria are on high alert and in a state of combat readiness. According to Oleksiy Danilov, Ukraine’s Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, Moldova, as well as the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, another former Soviet Republic, are likely the next targets in Putin’s war.

President Sandu has addressed these concerns, as well as the reports of explosions of several facilities in Transnistria, saying that “[our] analysis suggests the incidents were provoked by pro-war factions from within the region but at the same time, we heard about threats that came from some Russian generals about their intentions to reach Transnistria and of course, such statements are irresponsible and concerning.” She said that only a decisive reaction from the international community will bring peace and stability to the region and Europe as a whole.

“The war in Ukraine must be stopped. In the name of Ukraine, which today is sacrificing for everyone’s liberty and in the name of our common future, a peaceful and prosperous one, in a world in which such tragedies no longer take place,” President Sandu concluded.

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