Putin Changes Position on Moldova Amid Airport Capture Rumor

Vladimir Putin has canceled a decree that recognized Moldova's sovereignty in resolving the dispute over the Moscow-backed breakaway region of Transnistria.

The decree, enacted in 2012 when Russia's relations with the West were less fraught, was annulled to "ensure the national interests of Russia" following "profound changes taking place in international relations," according to the Kremlin's website.

Transnistria is a Russian-speaking region that is not recognized internationally as independent. Before the breakup of the Soviet Union, it seceded from Moldova amid fears it would merge with Romania.

A war in 1992 between a newly independent Moldova and the separatists was followed by the presence of Russian "peacekeepers" ever since.

Alexandru Flenchea, Moldova's chairman of the joint control commission in the security zone around Transnistria, insisted that Moldova and Russia had a political agreement that "provides for mutual respect for the territorial integrity of our countries," Reuters reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address on February 21, 2023. He has annulled a decree recognizing Moldova's sovereignty over the breakaway state of Transnistria. DMITRY ASTAKHOV/Getty Images

However, Putin's order follows accusations that Russia was seeking to destabilize Moldova.

Last week, citing Ukrainian intelligence, its president, Maia Sandu, accused Moscow of plotting to overthrow her government.

Also, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said that Russia was planning to capture the airport in Chișinău to fly in Russian military reinforcements to open a new front in Ukraine from Transnistria.

Moldova's Prime Minister Dorin Recean confirmed the rumor, but told local media that despite "several scenarios of destabilization....our institutions are prepared to face such challenges."

"Moldova opts for the peaceful settlement of the Transnistrian conflict and we must align our goals in terms of security, peace and stability in the region", Recean added, according to a translation.

Moldova's foreign minister, Nikolae Popescu, has played down the Russian threat to his country. He told The Financial Times that due to Ukrainian resistance, "we do not see the risk of military scenarios in the near future on the Moldovan border," although there was a threat from Russia of "hybrid subversive actions."

Sandu's pro-Western government has the backing of the European Union and the U.S., and the Moldovan president met President Joe Biden in Warsaw. The White House confirmed "strong U.S. support for Moldova's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Sandu tweeted her thanks to Biden "for his unwavering support to Moldova & for standing in solidarity with us," suggesting that Chisinau may be relying on U.S. backing against the threat from Russia.

Newsweek has contacted the Moldovan and Russian foreign ministries for comment.