Forces in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria are preparing to join Russia in its war against Ukraine, according to authorities in Kyiv.
Transnistria is a 249-mile long strip of land at the border with Ukraine. It is inhabited by some 470,000 people and is internationally recognized as part of Moldova but has been under the control of separatists since 1992.
Ukrainian and Moldovan authorities have warned that recent explosions in the breakaway region of Transnistria were part of Russia’s alleged plan to destabilize Moldova’s pro-EU, pro-Western government led by President Maia Sandu.
In addition, Western officials and defense analysts have said Transnistria could mobilize residents for the war against Ukraine.
Moldova’s deputy prime Minister, Nicu Popescu, earlier this week, said that the majority of Moldovans, including those in Transnistria, wanted to stay out of the war but recent attacks were causing tensions to rise, according to a Guardian report.
On Sunday, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine posted—on its Facebook page and on its website—a picture of what it says is a Transnistrian newspaper, dated May 2, 2022, which appears to mention other attacks that have not yet occurred.
The validity of the paper has been brought into question, and Newsweek has not been able to independently verify if it is legitimate.
The New Voice of Ukraine publication reported that the Ukrainian newspaper Segodnya, said the editor-in-chief of the actual Transnistria newspaper, Alexander Karasyov, called the front-page image a “fake.”
The Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, which did not specify how it came across said paper, seemed to suggest the paper shown in the picture can be considered as a warning that false-flag attacks in the breakaway region would serve as an excuse for local forces to join Russia in the war against Ukraine.
“‘Appeal to Putin’ and ‘terrorist attacks from the future’—Russia is preparing provocations in the ‘Transnistrian region’ for the May holidays,” Ukrainian authorities said in the post, citing the alleged paper, according to a translation by Google.
There are three national holidays listed in early May in Moldova—May 1, 2 and 9.
The Facebook post said that Russia was planning to commit attacks on Transnistria and blame it on the West and Ukraine.
“As the newspaper was published on the eve of the holidays, there is a danger that the Kremlin authorities plan to commit a series of acts of intimidation among the local population,” the post said according to a translation by Google.
“This is how the Kremlin is trying to legalize thousands of its military who will carry out provocations from the territory of the Transnistrian region,” it said.
Transnistria hosts some 1,500 Russian troops, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The attacks Transnistria experienced earlier this week saw the local government blame Ukraine for them, which Kyiv dismissed as Russian-orchestrated false-flag attacks, still according to the Wall Street Journal report.
The first blasts were reported on Monday, April 25, when several explosions hit the Ministry of State Security in Tiraspol, the largest city and the capital of Moldova’s separatist region.
According to local officials, the attack was committed using rocket-propelled grenades. Authorities did not name the source of the attack. More explosions followed the day after the Tiraspol incident.
According to local police quoted by the Associated Press, a radio facility in the town of Maiac in Transnistria, 7 miles west of the Ukrainian border, was hit by two blasts on Tuesday, which destroyed two broadcasting antennas. Again, nobody claimed responsibility for the attack and its source wasn’t identified.
Following these attacks, on Tuesday, Moldova said it was placing its security forces on high alert. Moldova’s deputy prime minister said that there was tension building and there appeared to be effort of destabilization.
“Our analysis so far shows that there are tensions between different forces within the region interested in destabilising the situation,” he said.
“That makes the Transnistrian region vulnerable and creates risk for the Republic of Moldova.”
Newsweek has contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry and Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense for comment.