European Council President Charles Michel has pledged to raise the European Union’s military aid to Moldova, a neighbouring country to Ukraine where tensions are rising following a series of explosions in a pro-Russia separatist region.
“This year we plan to significantly increase our support to Moldova by providing its armed forces with additional military equipment,” Michel told a joint news conference with Moldova’s President Maia Sandu during a visit to the country’s capital, Chisinau, on Wednesday.
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Michel said the bloc would increase its backing in the “field of logistics, of cyber-defence” and would seek to provide “more military-building capacities” to Moldova, without going into further detail.
“The EU stands in full solidarity with you, with Moldova. It is our European duty to help and to support your country,” Michel said, adding that the bloc would help Moldova “cope with the consequences of the spillover from the Russian aggression in Ukraine”.
The war has forced more than 5.6 million people to flee Ukraine, including some 450,000 who have crossed the border into Moldova.
For her part, Sandu reaffirmed Moldova’s intention to become a member of the EU, after it submitted an application on March 3, a little over a week after Russia invaded Ukraine.
“We chose European integration as our model of development. The danger and uncertainty of the war next door showed us that we must defend our choice and make firm steps towards our chosen path,” Sandu said.
Michel said he supported Moldova’s choice to apply to become an EU member state. Noting that the issue was “complex”, he said it was his intention to act immediately.
“We will continue to deepen our partnership with you to bring your country closer to the EU,” Michel added.
Sandu: Moldova has plans in place
Last week, authorities in Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria reported that explosions had hit the security ministry, a military unit and a Russian-owned radio tower, as well as shots were fired at a village housing a Russian arms depot, which Moscow called “acts of terrorism”.
The incidents have raised fears that the war in Ukraine could spread beyond its borders and drag Moldova into it.
Speaking at the news conference, Sandu said while Moldova has plans in place for “pessimistic scenarios … we see no imminent risk right now”.
She added that the incidents in Transnistria were “generated by the pro-war forces” there and “we try to discourage such incidents”.
The self-proclaimed republic of Transnistria bordering Ukraine seceded from Moldova in 1992 after a brief war with the certain government in Chisinau. Some 1,500 Russian soldiers have been based there ever since.
Fears of a spillover from the Ukraine conflict grew after a Russian general said last month the Kremlin’s military campaign aimed to create a land corridor through southern Ukraine to Transnistria.
Ukraine has accused Russia of wanting to destabilise the region to create a pretext for military intervention.