Russia Claims Ukraine Planning 'Staged Invasion' in Moldova

Moscow has accused Ukraine of planning to stage a false flag attack as a pretext for Kyiv invading Moldova's breakaway Transnistria region.

The announcement by the Russian ministry of defense (MOD) adds to tensions between Moscow and Chisinau, which has accused the Kremlin of trying to destabilize the country.

The Russian MOD said on Thursday that Kyiv was planning an "armed provocation" against Transnistria, which borders Ukraine and is not recognized internationally.

Russian defense officials said that the attack would be carried out by units of Ukraine's army and involve the Azov regiment, the far-right group referenced by Vladimir Putin as one of the reasons for his invasion, "to de-militarize and de-Nazify" Ukraine.

Transnistria building
The House of Soviets building in Tiraspol, in the breakaway Moldovan republic of Transnistria, is pictured on July 30, 2022. Moscow has accused Ukraine of plotting a false flag attack as a pretext for invading the breakaway region, which has strong ties with Russia. Anton Polyakov/Getty Images

"Ukrainian saboteurs participating in the staged invasion will be dressed in the uniform of the military personnel of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation," the Russian MOD said, according to the state-run Tass news agency.

It reported that the Russian MOD was "closely monitoring" the situation on the border between Transnistria and Ukraine.

Geopolitical analyst Michael Horowitz said that like most of the latest Russian claims, they "don't materialize into anything real but some of them may.

"They provide Moscow with options, building a narrative in case it actually decides to destabilize the country," he tweeted.

Moscow's accusation comes amid rising tensions in Transnistria and Putin's cancellation of a decree from 2012 that recognized Moldova's sovereignty in resolving the dispute over the Moscow-backed breakaway region.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on Wednesday that the move did not indicate that Putin would attack Moldova "which he lacks the military capability" to do, although "it does point toward an escalation in his ongoing efforts to undermine the Moldovan state."

This week, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said that Russia was planning to capture the airport in Moldova's capital to fly in Russian military reinforcements for a new front in the Ukraine war from Transnistria.

This followed accusations from Moldova's president that Moscow was plotting to overthrow her government using citizens from Russia, Belarus, Serbia and Montenegro. Moscow has denied the claims.

Dionis Cenusa, a risk analyst from the Lithuania-based Eastern European Studies Center, tweeted that Moscow is helping the Russian-speaking Transnistria region "to victimize and attract attention" and that "Moscow really fears that it could lose its current control over the region."

"Contrary to Russian speculation, opening another front line does not seem to be something Ukraine needs now," he added, describing how the roles of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the European Union were "imperative to reduce the risks a possible crisis situation."

Newsweek has contacted the Moldovan foreign ministry for comment.