| 4 March 2024, Monday |

Moldova holds urgent security meeting after Transnistria blasts

Moldovan President Maia Sandu has convened an urgent meeting of the country’s Supreme Security Council after two blasts damaged Soviet-era radio masts in the breakaway region of Transnistria.

The incidents on Tuesday came after local officials on Monday reported several explosions at the state security ministry in the city of Tiraspol at 6pm (15:00 GMT) the day before, on a public holiday for the Orthodox Easter.

The Moldovan authorities are sensitive to any sign of growing tensions in Transnistria, an unrecognised Moscow-backed sliver of land bordering southwestern Ukraine, especially since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Russia has had troops permanently based in the region since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Ukraine fears Transnistria could be used as a launchpad for new attacks on its soil.

Following the meeting of Moldova’s Supreme Security Council on Tuesday, President Sandu will hold a press briefing, her office said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Transnistria’s interior ministry had said “two explosions occurred in the village of Maiac, Grigoriopol district: the first at 6:40 and the second at 7:05”.

No residents were hurt, but two radio antennae that broadcast Russian radio were knocked out, it added.

There were no reported injuries from Monday’s incident at the ministry, either.

In a statement on Facebook, Transnistria’s interior ministry said some of the building’s windows were broken and that “smoke is billowing out of” the structure.

Preliminary information shows the attackers had used a hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher, it added.

The Pervy Pridnestrovsky television channel cited witnesses as saying they had heard several blasts. De-miners, firefighters and paramedics were called to the scene. The TVS television channel showed a picture of a grenade launcher abandoned at the scene.

No one has claimed responsibility for either incident.

Transnistria, a strip of land with about 470,000 people, has been under the control of separatist authorities since a 1992 war with Moldova. Russia bases about 1,500 soldiers there, calling them peacekeepers, but concerns are high that those forces could be used to invade Ukraine from the west.

On Monday, Moldova’s foreign ministry said the Tirapol blasts were aimed at creating “pretexts for straining the security situation in the Transnistrian region, which is not controlled by the constitutional authorities”.

This attack comes after a senior Russian military official last week raised the issue of Russian speakers in Transnistria in the context of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.

Major General Rustam Minnekaev, acting commander of the central military district, said on Friday that Russia’s military action in Ukraine included a plan to take full control of southern Ukraine, which could provide access to Transnistria, “where there have been cases of oppression of the Russian-speaking population”.

The comments echoed one of Moscow’s justifications for the war in Ukraine.

Moldova summoned Russia’s ambassador over Minnekaev’s comments, which it called “unfounded and contradicting Russia’s position in support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country within internationally recognised borders”.

The United States has previously warned that Russian forces could launch “false-flag” operations to create a pretext for invading the territory of other nations.

Russian officials have rejected such charges.

  • Aljazeera