Ukraine warns Russian-backed forces in Moldova are bolstering recruitment
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Kyiv on Thursday warned that Russian-backed separatist groups in Moldova are recruiting for their ranks as Moscow threatens to expand its campaign outside Ukraine.
In a statement released by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, officials said a letter was sent out to the heads of local administrations in the breakaway region of Transnistria in eastern Moldova last week.
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The letter, which was provided in coordination with the statement, reportedly shows that all men under the age of 55 have been asked by the Ministry of Defense of Transnistria to join a “special meeting” for 90 days to bolster its army.
The recruitment push will “ensure 100 percent staffing of the Peacekeeping Contingent of the Transnistrian Moldavian Republic, as well as to provide employment for the working population of the republic,” a translation provided by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said.
Those who join the ranks will be provided “financial and material support, accommodation and food.”
A sum of 2,800 Transnistrian rubles will also be granted – though because Transnistria is not internationally recognized its ruble cannot be converted into foreign currencies outside of the breakaway region, making it unclear what the conversion rate to the US dollar is.
Despite the current calls for voluntary enlistment for a 90-day period, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said it has received information to suggest that enrollment will be compulsory.
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The letter was reportedly sent out on April 21, just one day before a Russian general announced Moscow’s goal was to gain “full control” over eastern Ukraine along with regions that sit above the Black Sea and border Moldova.
“Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are cases of Russian-speaking people being oppressed,” Major General Rustam Minnekaev said in Russia’s first direct threat to Moldova since its invasion into Ukraine began in February.
Russia has been echoing language that it used in the lead-up to its incursion into Ukraine when it said it would be launching a “special military operation” to liberate Russian supporters that it has alleged, without evidence, have been oppressed by regional authorities.
Two attacks then targeted Transnistria this week, one hitting radio antennas that broadcast Russian programs while another struck the Ministry of State Security in the region’s capital.
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Russia on Thursday alleged these were “acts of terrorism” but did not say by whom or provide evidence to support its claims.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Thursday that the actions in Transnistria are “reminiscent of the events” that occurred in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in its Donbas region “on the eve of [the] full-scale Russian invasion.”