The empty headquarters of the Ministry of State Security (MGB) in the Moldovan separatist republic of Transnistria came under attack from a grenade launcher later identified as a RPG-27 Tavolga, produced in Russia and also in service in Transnistria, Jordan and Gabon, on the evening of April 25, Easter Monday.
On the same evening, the Russian public were inundated with propaganda claiming that Nato member Romania has nearly invaded Moldova and is openly oppressing the Russian-speaking nationals in Transnistria.
The separatists in Transnistria reported the events rather briefly. “There were no casualties,” the official news agency Novosti PMR announced while admitting that the shots were fired from an RPG.
In their turn, Moldova’s authorities said that the incident at the headquarters of Transnistria’s MGB was aimed at creating tensions in the separatist region that is not under the control of the Moldovan authorities.
“The aim of today's incident is to create pretexts for straining the security situation in the Transnistrian region, which is not controlled by the constitutional authorities. In this context, the Office of Reintegration Policy calls for calm and together with the competent national institutions monitors the developments of the mentioned case," the Office of Reintegration Policies said.
Building an anti-Moldovan and even anti-Romanian narrative on the rather awkward grenade incident in Tiraspol wouldn’t be possible in Transnistria, but it makes enough sense for the more remote Russian public. The intensification of the anti-Moldovan propaganda within Russia indicates increased efforts to undermine the fragile stability in Moldova to the point where direct or indirect actions against the Moldovan state would receive the support of the Russian public.
“Romania, with the support of Nato and with the participation of the Ukrainian army, plans to seize Transnistria and carry out massive political repressions against all supporters of Russia,” Russian daily Pravda announced immediately after the incident in Tiraspol, quoting politologist Sergei Markov.
The so-called expert claimed that the Romanian army has already been deployed in Moldova and forces are being built up.
Earlier, the former minister of defence of the unrecognised Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, Igor Strelkov, claimed that Romania was conducting covert preparations to capture Moldova.
According to him, a significant part of the Moldovan officers in all headquarters in all key positions have been replaced by officers of the Romanian army.
There have been fears since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February that the conflict could spill over to neighbouring Moldova, where pro-Russian separatists have controlled the eastern part of the country since the early 1990s.
On the day of the invasion, February 24, the Moldovan authorities had to issue a statement saying that no attacks had been launched from the rebel region after a video was circulated on social media that its author claimed showed a rocket attack from Transnistria.
The Russian military presence in Transnistria is too small to open up a new front in Ukraine, but there has been speculation that if Russia takes the Ukrainian Black Sea coast it could then push though to Transnistria. At the moment, however, Russian and Ukrainian forces are fighting for control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, although Russian airstrikes on the city of Odesa continue.
Brigadier General Rustam Minnekayev said on April 22 that the Russian army plans to take the Donbas, then create land corridors to both the Crimea and Transnistria. The Moldovan foreign ministry responded by urging Russia to respect its neutrality.
The authorities in Tiraspol have been relatively quiet since the outbreak of war. When the Russia-backed separatists in Tiraspol issued a statement reasserting the tiny republic’s independence on March 4, the railway bridge across the Kuchurgan River, linking Transnistria to Ukraine, was blown up.