Moldovan President on balancing EU and Russian relationship
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Russian forces have continued to press on with consolidating their hold of the eastern Donbas regions of Ukraine, despite being plagued by well-documented personnel issues. But there is one country Putin has always set his sights on bringing under official Russian control, that would be a logical next step for the Russian leader after “destroying” Ukraine, according to Dr Yuri Felshtinsky.
The eastern European country of Moldova has long expressed anxiety over its status outside the EU and NATO.
Transnistria is a breakaway region of Moldova that shares hundreds of miles of border with Ukraine, and is supported by Moscow.
Transnistria is not recognised as a nation by any UN member, although it declared itself independent over three decades ago.
Former US ambassador to Moldova, James Pettit, wrote earlier this summer that the former Soviet state would be “extremely vulnerable to a Russian invasion”.
He added: “An attack on this tiny nation would not present Russia with anything near the difficulties of its ongoing, halting efforts in Ukraine.”
Dr Felshtinsky, author of ‘Blowing up Ukraine: The Return of Russian Terror and the Threat of World War III’, warned that Putin will “start a war in Moldova the moment they reach Transnistria”.
He told Express.co.uk: “Even before they are done with Ukraine, if they reach Transnistria in the process, they will start to have a war there.”
Dr Felshtinsky dismissed the idea that Putin would ever be satisfied with taking the Donbas or currently occupied regions such as Kherson, which was one of the first to fall after the Russian invasion began.
He said the groundwork had been laid in Transnistria for almost a decade, with Russian “peacekeepers” lingering in the area since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Estimates place the number of Russian “peacekeeping” officials in Transnistria at around 2,000.
He said: “He actually was thinking about Ukraine as a whole, because then he was planning to proceed to Moldova.
“In Moldova, in Transnistria, there are approximately 220,000 Russian-speaking people to whom the Russian government started to issue Russian passports.
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“They first started doing this in 2014.”
But Transnistria will be the first step in advancing further towards the rest of non-NATO member Moldova, Dr Felshtinsky predicted.
He said: “Moldova would be in danger the moment Russia moves to Transnistria.”
“If the Ukrainians aren’t able to hold them, then they’ll reach Transnistria and they will start the war in Moldova. And Moldova, of course, isn’t a member of NATO.”
He added: “Moldova is on the list – always was on the list”.
In 2006, a referendum result showed that 97.2 percent of Transnistrian voters would be in favour of joining Russia.
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