Moldova again at center of tug between Moscow and the West

Feb 12, 2023, 10:01 PM | Updated: Feb 13, 2023, 12:19 pm
Moldovan President Maia Sandu pauses as Prime Minister designate Dorin Recean speaks after she appo...

Moldovan President Maia Sandu pauses as Prime Minister designate Dorin Recean speaks after she appointed him to form a new government in Chisinau, Moldova, Friday, Feb 10, 2023. Moldova's government collapsed Friday as pro-Western Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita resigned, adding to a series of crises that have gripped the small nation since Russia invaded its neighbor, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Aurel Obreja)

(AP Photo/Aurel Obreja)

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, the country of Moldova has often been at the center of a struggle between Moscow and the West. It finds itself in that uncomfortable position again.

On Monday, its president alleged that Russia was plotting to overthrow her country’s government by force to derail its aspirations of joining the European Union — plans first disclosed last week by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, tensions in Moldova have risen periodically, especially because of a Kremlin-backed breakaway region on its eastern border where Russia has stationed about 1,500 troops.

A look at recent events in Moldova:


Once part of the Soviet Union, Moldova declared its independence in 1991. One of Europe’s poorest countries with a population of about 2.6 million people, it has historic ties to Russia but wants to join the 27-nation EU.

The country has lurched from one political crisis to another, often caught in limbo between pro-Russian and pro-Western sentiments. In recent years, Moldova has seen widespread disillusionment with post-Soviet politics, and an exodus of hundreds of thousands of its citizens seeking a better life abroad.

The situation is complicated following a separatist war that broke out in its eastern region of Transnistria in 1990 — a strip of land about 400 kilometers (249 miles) between the eastern bank of the Dniester River in Moldova and the border with Ukraine. As part of a cease-fire in 1992, a contingent of Russian troops remains there as nominal peacekeepers. Since then the region has insisted it is not part of Moldova, and most of its 470,000 people speak Russian, although residents identify themselves as ethnically Moldovan, Ukrainian or Russian.

In 2021, after decades of largely oligarchic power structures and various Russia-friendly leaders, Moldovans elected pro-Western, pro-European leaders to put it on a more distinctly Western path.


Since the invasion nearly a year ago, Moldova has sought to forge closer ties with the West. Last June, it was granted EU candidate status, the same day as Ukraine, but full membership will be a long road, contingent on tackling corruption and organized crime, and strengthening human rights and the rule of law.

Over the past year, tensions in Moldova have periodically risen as it faced a string of unsettling problems and incidents. These include a severe energy crisis after Moscow dramatically reduced gas supplies to the country. It also has seen skyrocketing inflation and a huge flow of refugees from the war next door.

In April, explosions were reported in Transnistria’s de facto capital, Tiraspol, amid fears the war in Ukraine could spill over. In recent months, several missiles have traversed Moldova’s skies, and rocket debris has also been found on its territory.


On Monday, Moldova’s President Maia Sandu said in Moldova’s capital of Chisinau that Moscow was plotting to overthrow her government via outside saboteurs “with military training, camouflaged in civilian clothes, who will undertake violent actions, attack some state buildings, and even take hostages.”

Its purpose, Sandu said, would be to install an illegitimate government “which would put our country at the disposal of Russia in order to stop the European integration process.”

She claimed Russia wants to use Moldova in the war against Ukraine, without elaborating, and added that Parliament must adopt laws to equip its Intelligence and Security Service and prosecutors with the tools “to combat more effectively the risks to the country’s security.”

Zelenskyy said last week his country had intercepted plans by Russian security services to destroy Moldova, claims that were later confirmed by Moldovan intelligence officials.

There was no immediate reaction from Moscow, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this month that the West was considering turning Moldova into “another Ukraine.”

Costin Ciobanu of the Royal Holloway University of London said it’s likely there was pressure on Moldovan officials to follow up to the public on Zelenskyy’s statements last week. He said Sandu’s remarks could be a preemptive bid to thwart Russian attempts to destabilize Moldova in the same way Western officials called out Moscow’s war plans before it invaded Ukraine.


McGrath reported from Sighisoara, Romania.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine:

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - This Sept. 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female South...
Associated Press

Researchers: Inbreeding a big problem for endangered orcas

People have taken many steps in recent decades to help the Pacific Northwest's endangered killer whales, which have long suffered from starvation, pollution and the legacy of having many of their number captured for display in marine parks.
21 hours ago
FILE - Hiring signs are displayed at a grocery store in Arlington Heights, Ill., Jan. 13, 2023. Emp...
Associated Press

Pay transparency is spreading. Here’s what you need to know

U.S. employers are increasingly posting salary ranges for job openings, even in states where it’s not required by law, according to analysts with several major job search websites.
21 hours ago
Meadowdale High School 9th grade students Juanangel Avila, right, and Legacy Marshall, left, work t...
David Klepper and Manuel Valdes, Associated Press

Seattle high school teacher advocates for better digital literacy in schools

Shawn Lee, a high school social studies teacher in Seattle, wants to see lessons on internet akin to a kind of 21st century driver's education, an essential for modern life.
21 hours ago
South Carolina Senators hear from the parents of people who died from fentanyl overdose on Jan. 19,...
Associated Press

With overdoses up, states look at harsher fentanyl penalties

State lawmakers nationwide are responding to the deadliest overdose crisis in U.S. history by pushing harsher penalties for possessing fentanyl and other powerful lab-made opioids that are connected to about 70,000 deaths a year.
21 hours ago
FILE - In this July 3, 2014, file photo, the Microsoft Corp. logo is displayed outside the Microsof...
Associated Press

Microsoft adds AI tools to Office apps like Outlook, Word

Microsoft is infusing artificial intelligence tools into its Office software, including Word, Excel and Outlook emails.
4 days ago
FILE - This photo provided by the Alaska Volcano Observatory/U.S. Geological Survey shows the Tanag...
Associated Press

Alaska volcanoes now pose lower threat, after quakes slow

Diminished earthquake activity led authorities Thursday to reduce the warning levels at two volcanoes on an uninhabited island in Alaska’s Aleutian chain because of the decreased potential for eruptions.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Moldova again at center of tug between Moscow and the West