The small, landlocked Moldova is struggling to cope with the aftermath of Russia’s war against Ukraine

A man holds his child as families fleeing Ukraine due to the Russian invasion are waiting to enter a refugee camp in Moldova’s capital Chisinau on March 3, 2022.

Nikolay Doychinov | Afp | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Russia’s war against Ukraine has revealed a host of new threats to the small, inland nation of Moldova, which has struggled with an influx of Ukrainian refugees while maintaining a total dependence on Russian gas.

Moldova is the smallest nation in Eastern Europe with a population of less than 3 million and a land mass slightly larger than the state of Maryland. In less than two months, however, it has been overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of civilians who have fled Russia’s ongoing military campaign.

“Of course, we can not compare ourselves to Ukraine and the tragedy that Ukraine is going through,” Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu told a panel of think tanks at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, DC, on April 19.

“But we are Ukraine’s most fragile neighbor because we are the country most affected and we are the country with the fewest resources to deal with the situation and the fallout from the war,” Popescu added.

Popescu, who closed a series of meetings at the Foreign Ministry last week, said more than 400,000 people fleeing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war have crossed into Moldova.

“We have locked everyone in because they are escaping the war,” Popescu said, adding that Moldova has eased entry and visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens and is currently working to provide long-term access to health care and education.

“This is much faster, much bigger than anything that has been seen,” Popescu said, adding that the refugee crisis has threatened Moldova’s stability and economic development.

Ukrainian refugees are standing next to their belongings after arriving from Moldova at Bordeaux International Airport on April 21, 2022.

Philippe Lopez | AFP | Getty Images

The ongoing war next door has put the landlocked country of Moldova, a former Soviet republic and one of Europe’s poorest nations, in a precarious position.

Hoping to mitigate Moldova’s fragility, the country last week submitted a questionnaire required for EU membership. The application process comes as Russian officials suggest that the Kremlin’s war may have the potential to expand beyond Ukraine.

On Friday, Russian Commander Rustam Minnekayev said Moscow wanted “full control” of eastern and southern Ukraine.

Minnekayev explained that the conquest of this shard of land would allow the Kremlin to create a “land corridor” from Russia in the east to Transnistria to Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula that Russia strongly annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Asked about a potential Russian invasion of Moldova, Igor Zhovkva, deputy head of the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the possibility of Russian troops moving into Moldova is high.

“Now they want to capture the entire Donbas. Yes, they want the connection between the Donbas and the Crimea,” Zhovkva told NBC. “As far as Moldova is concerned, yes, we heard these messages from Russian officials,” Zhovkva continued. “Who knows? You never know with Russia, but it could be a great opportunity.”

Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu speaks at a bilateral meeting hosted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington, DC, on April 18, 2022.

Stefani Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Moldova’s vulnerability on the front lines of Eastern Europe adds to Moldova’s complete dependence on Russian gas supplies.

Popescu said that 100% of Moldova’s gas supply comes from Russia and 80% of the electricity comes from the Transnistria region, a heavily armed breakaway region controlled by Russia with borders touching Ukraine and Moldova.

“We are very, very vulnerable on the energy resilience front,” Popescu said, adding that his country has limited international trade access due to Moldova’s geography.

“We used to import a lot of goods from Ukraine and a lot through Ukraine from the port of Odesa, which was the cheapest way to ship, but now all that has stopped,” he said, adding that Moldova is working aggressively. to establish new trade relations.

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