The Russian Ministry of Defence claimed on February 23 that Ukraine is preparing a complex operation aimed at eventually invading the pro-Russian separatist Transnistria region in Moldova.
Moldovan officials said that they are not in possession of such reports and Russia’s statements are instead part of a hybrid war. There are fears that Russia will escalate the war in Ukraine and potentially embroil Moldova around the one-year anniversary of the invasion.
The government in Kyiv plans to carry out an operation under a false flag, as a pretext for invading Transnistria in the near future, the Russian Ministry of Defence said on February 23.
Russian diplomats said Kyiv plans to stage what would appear to be an offensive by Russian troops from the territory of Transnistria. The invasion would then be carried out by units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with the involvement of the Azov nationalist formation.
"For this, the Ukrainian saboteurs participating in the staged invasion will be dressed in the uniform of the military personnel of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation," they added.
Moldovan officials denied there was any threat that Ukraine would invade Transnistria.
The statements from the Russian Ministry of Defence about possible provocations of Ukraine in the Transnistrian region represent a “psychological operation” rather than real intentions, said the secretary of state from the Moldovan Ministry of Defence, Valeriu Mija, during the Public Space show on Radio Moldova.
They follow a warning from Ukrainian intelligence that Moscow is plotting to destabilise Moldova, where it has long backed the separatist regime in Transnistria.
Moldovan President Maia Sandu, Prime Minister Dorin Recean and other Moldova officials have recently talked of scrapping the country’s longstanding military neutrality and hinted that the country might consider Nato membership. That drew an angry response from Russian officials; Moscow’s fierce opposition to Ukraine joining Nato was one of the reasons for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
Meanwhile, the de facto government in Transnistria said that it has the situation under control and that no provocation will be carried out from its territory.
The official noted, however, that the state authorities must carefully monitor the situation and be vigilant.
The separatist authorities in Transnistria mentioned the Russian peacekeeping troops on their territory, saying that “any intimidation gesture against them” would be an “unjustified crime”.
Dionis Cenusa, of the Think Tank EESC in Lithuania and Moldova and a bne IntelliNews columnist, wrote on Twitter that it would “make little sense” for Kyiv to attack Transnistria. “The hysteria around the Transnistria region can be reduced if opponents of Russian aggression manage to establish a joint information front,” he added.