Russia Targets Moldova Invasion Next as They Seek Land Corridor via Ukraine

A top Russian general has raised the prospect that a breakaway Moscow-aligned part of Moldova is next in the Kremlin's sights in its invasion of Ukraine.

Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia's Central Military District, said that there were Kremlin plans to make a passage into Transnistria as part of a strategy to create a land corridor to Crimea, which Moscow seized from Kyiv in 2014.

He said that the aim of the second phase of the invasion of Ukraine, which the Kremlin calls a "special military operation," was to establish "full control" over the Donbas and southern Ukraine.

Transnistria is a Russian-speaking breakaway state which is not recognized internationally as independent and is considered to be part of Moldova. Its economy is propped up by Moscow and Russian troops are stationed there.

Russian soldier Mariupol
A Russian soldier in Mariupol on April 12, 2022. A Russian general has raised the prospect that the breakaway Transnistria region of Moldova was part of Kremlin plans for its invasion of Ukraine. ALEXANDER NEMENOV//Getty Images

Its strategic location along the border with Ukraine was referred to by Minnekayev who said "control over the south of Ukraine is another exit into Transnistria, where there are also facts pointing to the oppression of the Russian-speaking population," Tass reported.

Before his invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of pursuing "genocide" of the Russian-speaking population in the eastern Donbas region.

As well as the "denazification" of Ukraine, protecting Russian speakers was among his justifications for the war which have been widely rejected by the international community.

Minnekayev told a defense industry meeting in Russia's Sverdlovsk region, "We are now at war with the whole world, as it was in the Great Patriotic War," referring to Russia's description of World War II.

"The whole world was against us and now it's the same thing, they never liked Russia," he added.

However, Anton Barbashin, editorial director of the publication Riddle Russia criticized Minnekayev's comments, tweeting: "It kind of sounds dumb to announce exactly where you are going to attack next BEFORE you've dealt with Ukrainian resistance in Donbas."

In a separate tweet, he wrote: "Why announce plans to create a land bridge to #Transnistria while most of your forces are not even there and are clearly set to encircle UA troops in around Kramatorsk area."

There have been concerns about the consequences that Russia's invasion of Ukraine might have for its neighbors. Ukraine fears the existing presence of Russian troops in Transnistria, who number about 1,500, could open another front in the war. It could also leave Moldova and other nations increasingly vulnerable to Russian aggression.

The general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine warned on April 2 that Russian troops were massing in Transnistria and preparing to carry out "provocations" along the border.

However, Chisinau responded by denying there were indications that troops in Transnistria were being mobilized and that Moldova's "state institutions are closely monitoring the security situation in the region."

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

Update 4/22/22, 6:24 a.m. EDT: This article has been updated to include more background information and quotes from Rustam Minnekayev and Anton Barbashin.