Moldova facing Russian hybrid warfare: defence minister
Moldova does not currently face "imminent military danger" but is subject to "hybrid warfare generated by Russia" that is designed to overthrow its government, its defence minister said on Monday.
Pro-European Moldova has repeatedly accused Moscow of plotting to violently topple its government through saboteurs disguised as anti-government protesters, claims which Russia has denied.
"There isn't an imminent military danger against Moldova at present but there are other types of dangers that affect the country's security -- hybrid warfare," Anatolie Nosatii told AFP in an interview.
He was speaking after anti-government demonstrations erupted at the weekend -- the latest in a string of such protests in the small former Soviet republic.
By generating "disinformation and tensions inside our society", Russia was attempting to "change the political order, destabilise and overthrow state power", the 50-year-old minister said.
"The greatest challenge right now is a set of provocations that the Russian Federation is trying to use to destabilise the situation," he continued.
On Sunday, Moldovan police said they had arrested members of a network they suspected was being orchestrated by Moscow to try and destabilise the country.
The authorities said they had acted after "receiving information on the organisation by Russian special services of destabilising actions on our territory via demonstrations".
The White House on Friday accused Russia of seeking to destabilise Moldova in order to install a pro-Russian government there.
Economic aspects also played an important role in the hybrid war Nosatii said Russia was waging.
For months, the government in Chisinau has accused Moscow of "energy blackmail" which has seen Russian gas deliveries to Moldova cut by half.
- Moldova 'not alone' -
Nosatii also deplored the repeated violation of the country's airspace by missiles targeting Ukraine, a violation he said was aggravated by the country's inability to "fully defend" its skies.
The nation's army of 6,500 soldiers is equipped with mostly dilapidated equipment dating from the Soviet era. It was in need of a thorough review that would require "time and funding", the minister said.
"Moldova's land forces have all types of weapons, including air defence, but it's old equipment that hasn't been modernised and this prevents our forces from operating at full capability."
Asked about Moldova's pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria, where Moscow maintains around 1,500 soldiers and a large stockpile of ammunition, Nosatii repeated his demand for the region to be demilitarised.
"We have consistently asked for the unconditional evacuation of Russian forces illegally stationed on Moldovan territory, including the evacuation of the Cobasna ammunition depot."
Transnistria seceded from Moldova in 1990 after a brief war in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The conflict has been frozen since 1992 and the breakaway region is not recognsied internationally.
"The situation there is stable and under control" despite recent comments from Moscow and local authorities saying otherwise, Nosatii told AFP.
Last week, Transnistria's pro-Russian authorities accused Kyiv of trying to assassinate their leader, Vadim Krasnoselsky, fuelling fears that the war in Ukraine could spill over into Moldova.
Nosatii urged Europe to "remain united and determined in its unconditional support for Ukraine".
By supporting Ukraine with "everything it needs for victory", Europe was promoting "peace and security in all European countries, including Moldova", he argued.
"The latest statements from the European Union and our strategic partners show yet again that Moldova will not be alone, now or in future, in the face of danger and threats, including military ones," he said.