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Moldova Could Be the Next Flashpoint in Europe’s Standoff With Putin

Moldova Could Be the Next Flashpoint in Europe’s Standoff With Putin
European Council President Charles Michel greets Moldovan President Maia Sandu prior to a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Kenzo Tribouillard).

As the war in Ukraine enters its second week, the continent’s eyes are already turning toward neighboring Moldova. The European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, made an emergency visit there yesterday, while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made a last-minute visit next door to Romania.

The main reason given for the pair of visits was to discuss the large wave of Ukrainian refugees pouring into Moldova, a tiny country with limited resources. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, 1 million refugees have fled Ukraine in the past week, and almost 10 percent have gone to Moldova, a country of 2.6 million. That would be the equivalent of Germany absorbing more than 3 million refugees in one week.

But while refugee settlement was a major part of discussions between EU and Moldovan officials, security concerns also featured heavily on the agenda. On Tuesday, a video clip of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko addressing his security council circulated on the internet. In it, Lukashenko is standing in front of a battle map that, in addition to operations in Ukraine, appears to show plans for troop movements and infrastructure targets in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria. Belarus has been used as a staging ground for the Russian attack in Ukraine, and Lukashenko is reportedly preparing to send Belarusian troops in support of Russia's military campaign there. Some of the attacks in Ukraine depicted on the map have already taken place, raising concerns that the ones showing an incursion into Moldova launched from the Ukrainian port city of Odessa—which is currently under heavy attack—could be next.

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