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“MP” says Moldova’s Transnistria may request annexation by Russia; Ukrainian intel deems claim “unconfirmed”

Moldova’s Transnistrian politician claims the region’s parliament may ask Putin to annex it. Ukraine aims to counter Russia’s interference in Moldova as intelligence questions threat.
T-64 tanks are taking part in a military parade dedicated to the celebration of the 25th anniversary of “Transnistria foundation”, in Tiraspol, on 2 September, 2015. Image:
“MP” says Moldova’s Transnistria may request annexation by Russia; Ukrainian intel deems claim “unconfirmed”

Referring to Transnistrian “opposition MP” Ghenadie Ciorba, the Moldovan media report that the so-called parliament of Moldova’s Russian-controlled Transnistrian region may ask Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on 28 February to annex Transnistria.

Over the past two years, Moldova, an EU candidate and former Soviet republic wedged between Ukraine and Romania, has accused Russia-backed entities of subversive attempts against its pro-Western government, manipulations in its electoral process, and exploiting its Russian-controlled region of Transnistria to compromise national security, while also contending with energy pressures from Moscow and the transit of Russian missiles through its airspace during Russian air assaults on Ukraine, ultimately declaring Russia a formal “security threat” for the first time in its history.

The “congress of all-level deputies” of the unrecognized Transnistrian Moldovan Republic (PMR) has been scheduled for 28 February, while on the next day, Putin is going to make his annual address to the Federal Assembly, Russia’s bicameral parliament. Ghenadie Ciorba suggests that an order to convene the congress in Transnistria’s capital city of Tiraspol came from Moscow.

“At the Tiraspol forum, a request should be voiced on behalf of PMR citizens to accept Transnistria into the Russian Federation, and on 29 February, Putin will announce this in his Address, and the Federal Assembly will quickly decide to satisfy the request,” Ciorba speculated.

The Transnistrian “opposition MP” views the congress as a continuation of the recent protest in Tiraspol against Moldova’s economic pressure, designed to demonstrate Transnistria’s united front against Chișinău’s authorities, aligning with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov’s assurance of Moscow’s support for its citizens in Transnistria. In a social media post, Ciorba urges Transnistrian lawmakers to block any appeal that could grant Putin legal justification to target Moldovan territories, including Transnistria, under any guise.

Ghenadie Ciorba urged the Moldovan leadership not to appease Putin:

“Madam President Sandu, your entourage frightened you in every possible way that Russia would attack the Moldovan territory. One thing you did not take into account is that the psychology of the current Russian leadership, in particular of Putin, is very similar to the psychology of Adolf Hitler of the late 1930s. Attempts to appease people like Putin lead to only one thing – to a growing appetite of the aggressor,” Ciorba wrote.

Ukrainian intelligence dismisses the threat

Ukrainian online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda (UP) claims that Andrii Usov, spokesman for Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, assured UP that the reports that the Transnistrian de-facto authorities are set to ask Putin about the region’s accession to Russia at the upcoming congress are not confirmed.

“According to our information, the claim that on 28 February the Transnistrian ‘authorities’ are going to ask Russia about joining its territory is currently unconfirmed,” Usov reportedly told UP.

Ukrainska Pravda added that its unnamed source noted that the accession request rumors extensively discussed in the media are “part of Moldova’s internal political process” and also constitute “pressure from Transnistria to protect [its] economic interests.”

Lavrov’s statement and hybrid operation

Earlier in February, Moldovan President Maia Sandu announced a Russian plan to destabilize the country, saying that Moscow wants to bring its proxies to power in the Moldovan capital of Chișinău.

Last week, on 14 February, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared that Moscow would protect its citizens in Moldova from any pro-Western government in Chișinău, stating, “We will do everything we can to reverse this trend and resume the political process. With 200,000 citizens living there, we are concerned about their fate and will not allow them to become victims of another Western adventure.”

Lavrov’s statement echoes Russia’s rhetoric similar to that used by Russia before its invasions of Ukraine, in 2014 and 2022, “likely to set conditions to justify possible future Russian escalation against Moldova,” according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

On 15 February, the Ukrainian ambassador to Moldova, Marko Shevchenko, commented on the statements of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said he was “concerned” about the fate of Russian citizens living in the Transnistrian region, calling Lavrov’s statement an attempt to destabilize the situation in Moldova:

“Lavrov’s statement is an attempt to destabilize the situation in Moldova. The statement is aimed at the part of the population that watches news in Russian and still considers sources related to the Russian Federation reliable. With this statement, Lavrov is trying to make Moldovans doubt the efforts of the Moldovan government,” Shevchenko said on Jurnal TV.

Recently, Kremlin officials, including FM Lavrov and MFA spokesperson Zakharova, justified Russian efforts to destabilize Moldova and prevent its Western integration by accusing Moldova of economically strangling Transnistria and obstructing diplomatic solutions, while a Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed Moldova is militarizing to forcibly reintegrate Transnistria, suggesting Russia should prepare for this. Meanwhile, Moldovan authorities accused Russian peacekeepers in Transnistria of violating OSCE protocols.

“The timing of a possible Russian hybrid operation in Moldova is unclear, but the Kremlin is setting informational conditions to make it possible soon,” ISW concluded a week ago.

Ukraine promises to “respond decisively” to Russia’s destabilization of Moldova

On 20 February, Ukrainian Special Envoy Ambassador Paun Rohovey made a working visit to Moldova, where he met with Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Oleg Serebrian and the leader of the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova, Vadim Krasnoselsky.

According to Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry,  the parties discussed the current state of the Transnistrian settlement at the meetings, and exchanged views on ways to resolve issues in relations between Chișinău and Tiraspol, with Ukraine continuing to facilitate mutual understanding between the two sides, primarily on the final goal of the negotiation process – the reintegration of the Republic of Moldova.

“Ukraine stands exclusively for a peaceful settlement of the Transnistrian issue with the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova within its internationally recognized borders. At the same time, Kyiv will respond decisively to any provocations aimed at dragging the Transnistrian region into Russia’s war against Ukraine and at destabilizing the situation in Moldova in general,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said.

EU sanctions Transnistria and pro-Russian Moldovans

On 22 February, the European Union sanctioned Moldova’s six individuals and a pro-Moscow paramilitary group in response to activities that are seen as jeopardizing the sovereignty and independence of Moldova.

The EU specifically targeted the funding mechanisms of the pro-Russian paramilitary organization Scutul Poporului, also known as The People’s Shield, and implemented a travel ban against its leader, Chiril Guzun. Guzun has been accused by Brussels of continuously trying to destabilize Moldova’s democratic processes by inciting riots and organizing violent demonstrations.

Further sanctions were directed at Dmitry Milyutin, the deputy head of the Russian Federal Security Service’s Department of Operational Intelligence, who is said to be overseeing the FSB’s operations within Moldova and Moldova’s Transnistria. In addition to these measures, the EU has placed sanctions on two politicians and two individuals associated with the media, expanding the scope of its efforts to counteract the influence operations that threaten the political stability of Moldova.

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