Several attacks took place last week in Moldova. The incidents are concentrated in the separatist region of Transnistria, precisely in the cities of Tiraspol, Parcani, Maiac and Cobasna. Transnistria is a de facto autonomous pro-Russian “state”. De iure, it is a region of Moldavia, and no country in the West backs its independence.
Nonetheless, Russia has taken the Transnistrian quest for self-determination very seriously, deploying more than a thousand troops in its territory and concretely retaining control of law and order. Checkpoints are in place at the borders (also the internal one with Moldova) and a self-proclaimed president administers the region from the local capital of Tiraspol.
It is precisely in Tiraspol that the most blatant attack occurred. Last Monday, three men used shoulder-fired missiles against the state security headquarters. The attackers soon fled the scene with a van and no one was injured.
As anticipated above, additional attacks unfolded in other cities. The following day, a military unit was hit in Parcani. In the nearby centre of Maiac, an explosion shattered two radio masts that transmitted Russian news outlets.
Then, on Wednesday, several drones flew over Cobasna, in the north of Transnistria, and multiple shots were fired from the Ukrainian border. The area is home to one of the largest ammunition depots in Europe.
This wave of attacks can be understood as a reminder that dissidents are always present, even in territories administered by Russia. It could also be a move from Ukrainian forces aimed at destabilizing the region , as claimed by official Transnistrian sources.
No one claimed responsibility for the attacks.
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Whatever the source, the objective is the Russian presence in Transnistria. Attackers hit the political, military and media components of the Russia-backed Transnistrian administration.
The move could be aimed at discouraging westward military operations by Russia. Indeed, as Crimea is now connected to Donbas, Russia could direct its forces against Odesa, obtaining two strategic victories at once: depriving Ukraine from access to the sea and connecting Transnistria to the Russian mainland.
The rationale behind such a strategy would be that, in a scenario where Russia reached Transnistria, Putin could be ready to cease all military operations in the rest of Ukraine. In this way, he could fit the whole invasion in the “denazification and liberation” narrative he used to foster internal approval of the war. Indeed, new territories would be either between pro-Russian regions or pro-Russian themselves.
Ukraine could be forced to accept a truce out of desperation, and the West could be tempted to accept a partial restoration of gas linkages with Russia while trying to find more stable solutions. The confrontation would be put on hold, giving them time for Russia to re-organize and assess the economic damage of the war before starting hostilities again. In the end, it’s what Russia did back in 2014 with Crimea.
Whether or not dismembering Ukraine piece by piece over the years would be both a sustainable or sensible strategy remains up for scrutiny, considering that Ukrainians will never cease to resist Russian dominance. The attacks could be an anticipation.
The attacks in Transnistria occurred while Poland and Bulgaria were denied access to Russian gas supplies. This brings to three the total of countries that will face hurdles in the upcoming months due to the war in Ukraine.The first two countries face an increased risk of energy shortages, while Moldova faces a higher risk of escalation in violence.
The self-proclaimed governor of Transnistria announced new checkpoints, increased powers for law enforcement, and checks on vehicles and people as a retaliation to the attacks.
Moldovan politician Vlad Kulminski has commented the attacks underlining how they also generate fear of a possible escalation that could threaten the existence of Moldova as a country.
“Our future as an independent state does depend to a great degree on how successful Ukraine is in fighting for its independence and resisting and ultimately surviving as an independent state” […] Moldova is in a state of weakness, this country doesn’t really have what you would know as resilience, and ability to resist these shocks.”
This statement is worded with disarming clarity. Ukraine is fighting to block the advance of totalitarianism in Europe, and in doing so, is protecting the whole of Europe and every single country that is part of it. Therefore, every European country is indebted to Ukraine and should strive to support it in any way possible. While Western politicians disagree on the extent of what is a form of “feasible” help, Ukrainians continue to bleed for Europe, and one by one, more countries are dragged into the conflict.
If European countries do not intend to step up help for Ukraine out of moral considerations or points of principles and empathy, they should do so for their own sake.
The alternative is waiting to be next.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: Ministry of State Security building in Tiraspol after the April 2022 attack. Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.