Vladimir Putin should stay away from “heavy-handed” action in Moldova, and would likely opt for tactics sparking pro-Moscow rebellion over outright warfare, an expert has told Express.co.uk. On Monday, a Russian missile landed in Moldova, which borders Ukraine to the south-west of the war-torn country.
After Moscow launched a wave of strikes in key cities across Ukraine, Chișinău’s interior ministry said a missile intercepted by Ukrainian air defence had landed in Moldovan territory.
The missile landed in the village of Naslavcea in the very north of Moldova.
It was noted as the first “spillover” of the Ukrainian war to a neighbouring country since the invasion got underway in February.
However, Dr Marina Miron of King’s College London’s Defence Studies Department, argued that the “fact that the remnants of the Russian missile hit a village in Moldova does not really signify escalation”, because the missile was intercepted by Ukrainian air defence and not specifically targeting Moldova.
Even strategically, according to Dr Miron, Vladimir Putin would not currently be keen to open another front in the war for his exhausted military forces.
Despite Russia’s interest in Moscow-backed Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova, Putin can ill-afford to redirect his “overstretched” forces to a country with EU candidate status and NATO backing.
Dr Miron told Express.co.uk: “The most likely move for Russia would be to try to ignite a ‘revolution’ in Moldova rather than being heavy-handed.”
The Moldovan interior ministry said in a statement on Monday that several houses were damaged in the missile landing.
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The Moldovan foreign ministry was later quoted as telling the Russian ambassador to the country that “missile attacks on a neighbouring country continue to increase security risks, and the citizens of our country increasingly feel the devastating consequences of the war”.
The ministry then said the Kremlin’s increasing attacks on Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure put in danger Moldova’s energy security.
Moldova’s foreign minister condemned the missile launches by Moscow on Ukraine in “the strongest possible terms”.
Nicu Popescu wrote on Twitter: “The appalling strikes on critical infrastructure reverberate beyond Ukraine’s borders and pose a direct threat to Moldova’s energy – and human – security.”
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Earlier this month, NATO’s deputy secretary-general said he valued “Moldova for its contributions to international security”, and emphasised “NATO’s commitment to deepening its partnership with [Moldovan capital] Chișinău”.
In July, Moldova’s prime minister said the former Soviet nation was “worried” about the possibility of Russian forces advancing through Ukraine to arrive at Moldova’s borders.
Natalia Gavrilița told CNN: “This is a risk, it’s 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 described the “very difficult position” Moldova now finds itself in, noting the nation “is the most affected country after Ukraine economically from this war”.
She continued: “We are very worried, especially considering that troops are on the territory of the secessionist Transnistria region.
“We are doing everything possible to maintain peace and stability and to ensure that the fighting does not escalate.”