In the Russian-backed breakaway state of Transnistria, local intelligence services claim to have intercepted an assassination plot again the Transnistrian president, Vadim Krasnoselsky, and other leading officials.
The Ministry of State Security in Transnistria, still often referred to by Soviet-era KGB title by locals, claimed that they had arrested and charged two people accused of plotting terror, espionage and treason in a plot to assassinate local officials, including the unrecognized country’s president.
The plot was said to involve a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) in the form of a Land Rover full of RDX high explosives and that the two people arrested were planning to detonate the vehicle in downtown Tiraspol in an attempt to target high-ranking figures and their families in a mass casualty attack.
Local authorities have claimed that those arrested were “under the direct control and instructions of representatives of the security service of Ukraine (SBU) to carry out the murder of officials”, according to Reuters.
In response, the security service of Ukraine has said that the claims are nothing more than a provocation from the Kremlin and has denied any involvement in the plot and said the following in an official statement.
“Any statements by representatives… of the fake ‘People’s Republic of Transnistria’ regarding the participation of the SBU in the preparation of a terrorist attack should be considered exclusively as a provocation orchestrated by the Kremlin”.
In addition, Moldovan officials on the other side of Transnistria’s defacto border said that they were currently investigating the claims and were prepared to respond to any potential security threats.
Moldova, Breakaway Transnistria & Their Role in the War in Ukraine
Transnistria is a Russian-backed separatist state situated between Ukraine and Moldova and was formed after a short but brutal civil war with the majority ethnic Romanian Moldovan authorities during the collapse of the USSR.
Following a ceasefire in 1992, the unrecognized country with a majority ethnic Russian population has become home to 1,700 Russian peacekeepers dedicated to protecting its independence and security. The Kremlin has warned that any attack on Transnistria is equal to an attack on Moscow.
Moldova, on the other hand, has taken a more pro-Western approach in recent years. However, there are fears in the country that Russia is plotting to overthrow the current government.
Last month, the Kremlin accused Ukraine of planning to launch a military invasion of Transnistria. Something which Ukrainian officials denounced as a form of Russian “psyops”.
Moldova has a small population of around 2.6 million people. It has the unsavoury title of being one of the poorest countries in Europe and is one of the continent’s least visited countries as a result.
Last year, it was given the status of being a candidate for European Union membership. Whilst this has raised hopes of better economic prospects, it has also made it something of an adversary of Moscow.
The impoverished country is currently in the grip of an energy crisis stemming from a lack of modernization in its energy infrastructure as well as major issues with Russian gas supplies.
In addition, the current has undergone severe inflation and has become a significant refugee centre for those fleeing the war in neighbouring Ukraine. In response, various pro-Russian groups in Moldova have begun organizing protests.
Recently, the pro-EU Moldovan president Maia Sandu claimed that Russia is planning a coup and is using foreign saboteurs from the likes of Serbia, Belarus and Montenegro (as well as Russia itself) to achieve their mission.
In response, Moscow has brushed off these claims as anti-Russian hysteria and has issued a warning that the Moldovan leadership should be “very, very careful” with any statements they make.
More ominously, a decree signed in 2012 that outlined a Russian-led pledge to find a peaceful solution to the Transnistria issue that was based on Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity has recently been revoked.
In neighbouring Romania, another Eastern European country bonding Ukraine and one that is heavily affected by the ongoing conflict, has recently laid the groundwork to acquire up to 54 M1 Abrams tanks from the U.S. in an effort to modernize its defences over fears the conflict may escalate.