Moldova’s Russia-backed Transnistria region claims drone attacked military unit

State security services in Moldova’s Russia-backed breakaway region of Transnistria said Friday that a drone attacked a military unit close to the border with Ukraine, causing minor damage to a radar station but no casualties.

The incident occurred in the region of Rabnita, about 4 miles from the Ukraine border, the region’s state security ministry said, adding that a criminal investigation has been opened. They did not say who they thought was behind the alleged attack.

Moldova’s Bureau for Reintegration Policies responded by saying that the incident fits “a pattern of provocations” in Transnistria designed to “incite panic and tension” and maintain attention on the region.

HOW EVENTS IN MOLDOVA’S BREAKAWAY TRANSNISTRIA REGION RAISED FEARS OF RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE

Moldova, like Ukraine, is a candidate member for European Union membership, and has repeatedly accused Russia of conducting a “hybrid war” against the country, meddling in local elections, and running vast disinformation campaigns to try to topple the government and derail its path toward full EU membership. Russia has denied the accusations.

Alexander Korshunov, Chairman of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republics Supreme Council, addresses delegates in Tiraspol, Moldova, on Feb. 28, 2024. (Supreme Council of the PMR telegram channel via AP)

The drone incident came after an empty helicopter at a military installation in Transnistria last month was destroyed in what the authorities in Transnistria blamed on a Ukrainian drone strike, but what Moldovan officials said was a staged explosion also meant to inflame tensions.

While Moldova did not squarely blame Russia, it did say that “more such actions are planned by the Russian Federation” in Transnistria.

After a short war in the early 1990s, Transnistria declared independence from Moldova, where today’s pro-Western government has firmly opposed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war with Ukraine.

Although Transnistria’s independence isn’t recognized by any U.N. member countries, including Russia, the Kremlin-friendly territory has become a source of tension during the war, especially since it is wedged between Moldova and Ukraine and is home to a military base with 1,500 Russian troops. It wasn’t immediately clear if any troops were at the site of the drone incident on Friday.

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The separatist region also made headlines in February when authorities used a rare meeting of Transnistria’s congress to appeal to Moscow for “protection” due to what they said was increased pressure from Moldova. The appeal stopped short of asking Russia to annex the territory, allaying fears in Moldova, which dismissed the event as propaganda.

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