Explosions in Moldova's region near Ukraine spark fears of Russian incursion

The unclaimed attacks raise concerns that Russia will claim it needs to intervene to protect its troops in Transnistriaere

The destroyed radio antennas lie on the ground in Maiac, in the Moldovan separatist region of Transnistria on April 26. AP

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Two explosions in a radio centre close to the Ukrainian border disabled two powerful broadcast antennas in Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria, police said on Tuesday.

Transnistria, a strip of land with about 470,000 people, has been under the control of separatists since a 1992 war with Moldova.

Russia stations about 1,500 troops in the breakaway region, nominally as peacekeepers.

Ukrainian officials have expressed concern about Moscow using those soldiers to invade Ukraine, while the threat of renewed fighting over Transnistria worries Moldovan authorities.

They fear Russia will claim it needs to intervene to protect its troops or restore order.

The explosions happened in the small town of Maiac, about 12 kilometres west of the Ukraine border, the region’s Interior Ministry said. No one was hurt, officials said.

The two antennas were used for broadcasting Russian radio shows. No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts.

The US has warned that Russia could launch “false-flag” attacks in nearby nations as a pretext for sending in troops.

On Monday, several explosions, believed to have been caused by rocket-propelled grenades, were reported to have hit the Ministry of State Security in Tiraspol, Transnistria’s capital.

The Security Council of Transnistria reported on Tuesday that there had been three incidents in the region — explosions in Tiraspol on Monday, the ones in Maiac on Tuesday and damage to a military unit in the village of Parcani.

Officials did not offer any details on the military unit incident. But Transnistria’s President, Vadim Krasnoselsky, on Tuesday called for anti-terrorist security measures at a “red level” for 15 days, including setting up checkpoints at the entrances to cities.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that the situation in Transnistria “elicits concern” in Moscow.

A Ukrainian presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak warned in a tweet that Moldova might be attacked next,

“Bad news: if Ukraine falls tomorrow Russian troops will be at Chisinau’s gates,” he tweeted, referring to Moldova’s capital.

“Good news: Ukraine will definitely ensure strategic security of the region. But we need to work as a team.”

Moldovan President Maia Sandu convened the country’s Supreme Security Council on Tuesday to discuss the incidents.

After the meeting, Ms Sandu said a security analysis indicated that the blasts were caused by “different forces within the region, interested in destabilising the situation".

The Security Council recommended increased border and traffic patrols, and raising the alert level of institutions “responsible for ensuring public order and security.”

“We condemn any challenges and attempts to lure the Republic of Moldova into actions that could jeopardise peace in the country,” Ms Sandu said.

“Chisinau continues to insist on a peaceful settlement of the Transnistrian conflict.

“We will take all necessary measures to prevent escalation, to strengthen the security of the state and to protect our citizens.

“We remain open to continue the dialogue for the settlement of the conflict in the region in a peaceful, diplomatically negotiated manner.”

The UN said Secretary General Antonio Guterres was concerned about the incidents in Transnistria “and urges all concerned to refrain from any statements or actions that could escalate tensions".

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the world body continued to fully support efforts by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to reach a political settlement over the separatist region’s status.

The aim is to create a special status for Transnistria while strengthening Moldova’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Updated: April 27, 2022, 4:41 AM