CHISINAU (Reuters) – (This April 14 story makes clear in headline and first paragraph that Moldova did not directly accuse the Russian army, and corrects day on which minister made comments; in fourth and fifth paragraph adds context of minister’s remarks and corrects exact wording of quote)
Moldova said on Wednesday that reports that Russia’s army was trying to recruit Moldovan citizens were dangerous and that it was regularly discussing all matters of concern with Russian officials, in response to a question about the Ukraine war.
The comments came days after British military intelligence said that Moscow was trying to replenish its forces in Ukraine by recruiting in the breakaway Transdniestria region.
Transdniestria is a narrow strip of land held by pro-Russian separatists that runs along the east of Moldova and comes to within about 25 miles (40 km) of the Ukrainian port of Odesa.
Responding to a question from local journalists about alleged Russian attempts to recruit people in Transdniestria, Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu said: “These are not actions that contribute to peace for all of us, for our citizens, for our families, and these are dangerous things and should be discouraged”.
“There are a series of regular meetings between my colleagues at the Foreign Ministry and the ambassador of the Russian Federation, where Moldova is clearly articulating its position.”
Moscow’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Reuters was not able to verify whether Russia’s army has been trying to recruit Moldovans.
On Thursday, Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said that Russia was massing troops in several areas including Transdniestria for a “further escalation” in Ukraine.
Moldova said last month that it was monitoring the situation in Transdniestria, where an estimated 1,500 Russian troops are based, but that it had not seen significant changes since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started on Feb. 24.
Transdniestria’s authorities denied on Monday Russia was conducting any military preparations on its territory that threatened Ukraine. The region’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday about the remarks by Ukraine’s Malyar.
Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to destroy Ukraine’s military capabilities and root out what it views as dangerous nationalists, but Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
(Reporting by Alexander Tanas; Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by William Maclean and Frances Kerry)