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What is Russia’s history with Moldova?


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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a Russia-ally, stood in front of a map Tuesday that a appeared to  indicate plans for Russia to invade the breakaway state of Moldova as part of its larger operation in Ukraine.

“At today’s security council meeting, Lukashenko showed what looks like an actual invasion map,” Belarussian journalist Tadeusz Giczan tweeted Tuesday. “It shows Ukraine military facilities destroyed by missiles from Belarus, attacks directions (everything agrees except Odessa-Transnistria). Also, Ukraine is divided into 4 sectors.”

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week prompted officials, including U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Kent Logsdon, to raise concerns that Moldova could also become a Russian target.

“What we’ve been doing here in Moldova is trying to take the temperature of exactly what people are thinking,” Logsdon said last week from the capital city of Chisinau, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “There’s a lot of concern just geographically.”

Moldova, which borders Ukraine and Romania, has condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and has even taken in 88,000 Ukrainians fleeing their home country. 

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Like Ukraine, Moldova is a former Soviet republic. Formerly known as Bessarabia, the area was a province of the Russian Empire until after World War I, and then became part of Greater Romania.

The Soviet Union annexed Bessarabia in 1940 and combined it with the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, forming the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. The Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was one of 15 republics of the Soviet Union, which was in existence from 1940-1991. 

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As the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the republic declared independence and became known as Moldova. It became a member of the United Nations in 1992. 

“When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, independent Moldova experienced strong gravitational pulls from Romania and Russia. Their political, cultural, linguistic, and economic influences have manifested themselves throughout the first quarter century of Moldova’s independence, and every indication is that these influences will continue to play a major role in the country’s future development,” a 2017 article from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace states.

Lukashenko’s map ostensibly showed Russia invading Transnistria, which is a breakaway state of Moldova and where Russian loyalists dominate. Internationally, Transnistria is recognized as part of Moldova. 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko watches military drills via videoconference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. The Russian military on Friday announced massive drills of its strategic nuclear forces. Russian President Vladimir Putin will personally oversee Saturday's exercise, which will involve multiple practice launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, the Defense Ministry said. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via WHD)

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko watches military drills via videoconference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. The Russian military on Friday announced massive drills of its strategic nuclear forces. Russian President Vladimir Putin will personally oversee Saturday’s exercise, which will involve multiple practice launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, the Defense Ministry said. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via WHD)
(Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via WHD)

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Russian soldiers have been stationed in Transnistria since the area broke off from Moldova in 1992, reportedly serving as peacekeepers. The narrow piece of land, where about 400,000 people live, made headlines back in 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea. Transnistria officials and activists pleaded that the territory join Russia, but Russia deemed it was not in their interest.

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Lukashenko’s war map has also fueled concerns that Belarus will join Russia in invading Ukraine. The Ukrainian parliament claimed Tuesday that Belarus sent troops into Ukraine, but the Belarus president – who has called himself the “last dictator” in Europe – denied the report.

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