Part 3

Hybrid war

Russia supports hundreds of Russian troops within Moldova’s borders while using disinformation, energy cuts and cyber attacks to fuel Moldova’s divide.

The European Commission has recently recommended opening negotiations for Ukraine and Moldova to join the European Union. And the smaller Moldova, like its northern neighbor, Ukraine, is also contending with Russian troops inside its borders.


As Russian forces strike across Ukraine’s sovereign territory, neighboring Moldova has been caught in the crossfire.

Anatolie Nosatii, Moldovan Defense Minister:

“In the beginning, we have several violations of our airspace. Unfortunately, we have even some remains of the missiles that fell down on our territory.”

But Moldovan Defense Minister Anatolie Nosatii and other top military leaders tell VOA that despite a war raging to the east, the most immediate security issue is already within Moldova’s borders.

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Brig. Gen. Sergiu Cirimpei, Deputy Chief of National Army General Staff:

Cirimpei “The biggest threat is coming from the Transnistria and the Russian elements that are there.”

Sealed off by the Dniester River, Transnistria is a separatist region supported by Russia. Roughly 1,500 Russian troops are still stationed there. We encountered some as we cross the river.

Carla Babb, VOA News:

“We’re at a Moldovan checkpoint at the autonomous Transnistria region, which is internationally recognized as Moldovan territory, but a few hundred meters in front of us, Russian forces are manning another checkpoint. They call themselves peacekeepers and they have a say over who gets in and out.”

For our security, and to prevent another tense encounter with Russian troops, Moldovan border security on the Transnistria side escorted VOA without incident as we recrossed the river in the direction of Chisinau.

Russia promised to withdraw its troops from Moldova in international agreements signed in 1994 and 1999.

But Moscow never fulfilled its promises.

Adrian Efros, Moldova Minister of Internal Affairs:

Efros “This is a big security issue. We have those troops on our territory, and we have a war just close to our borders. So, the security situation is very fragile, let’s say like this, in Moldova.”

The security challenges come as the European Commission on November 8 recommended opening negotiations for Moldova and Ukraine to join the EU.

Chisinau says that while Moscow uses its military arsenal to attack Kyiv, the Kremlin is using every nonmilitary tool in its arsenal to dash Moldova’s Western aspirations.

Carla Babb, VOA News:

“Tensions between Russia and Moldova have skyrocketed. Over the summer, Chisinau expelled 45 diplomats and staff from the Russian embassy behind me for what it said was ‘unfriendly actions.’ And Moldova has repeatedly accused Russia of hybrid warfare.”

Anatolie Nosatii:

Nosatii “It’s not about accusation. We can feel the effects of this hybrid war every day. During the winter here, when they cut out the supply of gas. When they bombed critical infrastructure of the Ukraine, Ukrainian territory, that is directly linked to our infrastructure, so we experienced the same effects.”

Moldova’s minister of Internal Affairs, Adrian Efros, says it’s also about disrupting their information space.

Adrian Efros, Moldova Minister of Internal Affairs:

“They make this hybrid war more intense, with more disinformation, with more cyberattacks. They try to make the tension between different regions of Moldova, to make this tension internally.”

Some Moldovans, especially those with links to Ukraine, say they shrugged off the energy crisis and surging inflation last winter as a badge of honor.

Tudor Arnaut, Moldova for Peace:

“It was more expensive, but it’s better to pay more money for gas than to pay criminal regime that are killing people.”

But in a country where Russia historically has held sway, not everyone is on board with Moldova’s new attitude.

Carla Babb, VOA News:

“So people here support your reforms?”

Anatolie Nosatii:

“Unfortunately, society is still divided.”

U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Kent Logsdon says Moldova is experiencing a historic moment.

Kent Logsdon, US Ambassador to Moldova:

“If you think about all of the countries around Moldova, looking to the West, those countries all joined NATO. They joined the EU. And now Moldova kind of missed the bus, if you will. They saw it go by and they think this is their chance.”

Moldova is now seen as the frontrunner for EU membership, with negotiations expected to start later this year.