#1 Security Concerns and International Tensions: Moldova’s Recent Airspace Shutdown and Russia’s Denial

Moldova briefly shuts down airspace over unidentified object

On February 14, 2023, Moldova briefly shut down its airspace after a small object resembling a balloon was seen over the north of the country, close to the border with Ukraine. The action was taken following a report by Moldova’s Defense Ministry. Given the weather conditions, and the impossibility of observing and identifying the object, and its flight path, the airspace was closed, and it was canceled an hour and 22 minutes later once it was established that there was no threat to the safety of citizens.

Moldova accuses Russia of plot to overthrow government

The closure came at a time when Moldova had accused Russia of plotting to overthrow its government. However, Russia denied the accusation made by President Maia Sandu, who had repeatedly expressed concern about Russia’s intentions towards the former Soviet republic. The country had recently claimed that a Russian missile had violated its airspace during an attack on Ukrainian infrastructure and summoned the Russian ambassador to protest.

Moldova’s pro-Western government resigns amid economic fallout and Russian threat

The country’s pro-Western government had resigned amid worsening economic fallout from the war in neighboring Ukraine, a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russia was trying to destabilize the country. Late last year, the country’s national intelligence agency warned that Russia could launch a new offensive with the aim of creating a land corridor through southern Ukraine to Moldova’s Moscow-backed breakaway region of Transnistria.

Transnistria broke away after a 1992 civil war but is not recognized by most countries. It extends roughly 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the eastern bank of the Dniester River to the country’s border with Ukraine. Russia has about 1,500 troops nominally as “peacekeepers” in the breakaway region.

Moldova seeks closer ties with the West

Moldova, a former Soviet republic of about 2.6 million people, has sought to forge closer ties with its Western partners since Russian troops rolled into Ukraine nearly a year ago. It was granted EU membership candidate status in June 2022, the same day as Ukraine.

The airspace closure in the country occurred at a time of heightened tensions between the former Soviet republic and Russia. The airspace has been closely monitored since the Russian invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago. Romania, Moldova’s neighboring country, also detected what appeared to be a small weather balloon in its airspace, but two aircraft that it scrambled to investigate were unable to confirm whether it was still there.

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