A series of explosions have erupted at sites across Transnistria, a separatist-controlled region of Moldova which sits on Ukraine’s southern border. No one has claimed responsibility for the apparent attacks, which have stoked fears of a wider war in Eastern Europe.
Transnistrian authorities have reported at least five separate incidents so far this week, starting with several explosions at the Ministry of State Security headquarters in Tiraspol – the region’s capital – on Monday. The blasts resulted in “broken windows” but caused no casualties, the Interior Ministry said, adding that “according to preliminary data, the shots were fired from RPGs.”
Footage published by the ministry appears to show three men armed with shoulder-fired weapons, who launch projectiles at a building before speeding away in a car.
The region’s president, Vadim Krasnoselsky, later dubbed the incident a “terrorist attack,” adding that nearby residential buildings were also damaged in the explosions.
Also on Monday, a state investigative committee reported an attack on a military airfield, claiming “sabotage was carried out using an aircraft, presumably a drone, which dropped two explosive devices.” It did not specify where the incident took place or name any responsible party, however.
In the village of Maiac – located some 4 miles from the Ukrainian border – two blasts rocked a major radio station on Tuesday, disabling two large antennas. Local officials said there were no deaths or injuries, also sharing photos of the destroyed broadcast towers.
Officials also reported damage to a “military unit” in the town of Parcani west of the regional capital on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, though offered no further details.
On the same day, the Transnistrian government escalated its color-coded terrorism threat level to “red,” saying it would establish checkpoints “along the perimeter of all cities and regions of the republic” while citing “the events that took place in Tiraspol on April 25, in the village of Maiac and a suburb of the capital on April 26.”
Wednesday saw yet another apparent attack, with the Interior Ministry reporting that “shots were fired from the Ukrainian side” of the border into the town of Cobasna hours after “several drones were seen in the sky” over the area. It is unclear what kind of weapons were used, who fired the shots, or whether the drones spotted were military-grade UAVs.
Situated less than 2 miles from the border with Ukraine, Cobasna is home to a major ammunition depot housing up to 20,000 tons of Soviet-era weapons, thought to be among the largest military storage sites in Eastern Europe.
The incidents come just days after a senior Russian military official declared that Moscow would not only seek to capture Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, but the south of the country as well, stating that would grant access to Russian-backed Transnistria.
“Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are also facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population,” he said.
The largely Russophone enclave fought a war with Moldovan government forces in 1992 after proclaiming independence, and now hosts an estimated 1,500 Russian peacekeeping troops. It shares a 280-mile border with Ukraine.
While little is yet known about the string of mysterious explosions, officials on all sides are already pointing fingers, each suggesting the blasts are provocations intended to push the breakaway state into the war in Ukraine – in nearly identical verbiage.
“The traces of these attacks lead to Ukraine,” claimed Transnistrian President Krasnoselsky, as cited by TASS. “I assume that those who organized this attack have the purpose of dragging Transnistria into the conflict.”
Kiev, meanwhile, has cast blame on Moscow, similarly alleging that it seeks to pull Russian-backed Transnistrian separatists into its assault.
“We have seen that another step is being planned by the Russian Federation … it is clear why, really, to destabilize the situation in the region,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a recent press conference, condemning “desperate attempts to draw the Transnistrian region of Moldova into the full-scale war against Ukraine.”
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, moreover, has accused Russian troops already stationed in the area of making “a demonstration of readiness for the offensive and, possibly, hostilities against Ukraine.” That charge was rejected as “absolutely untrue” by Transnistrian officials, who stressed “the absence of any threat to Ukraine” from their territory.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it is “alarmed” by the recent “acts of terrorism,” calling them “armed provocations” aimed at “destabilizing the situation in the region.”
“We strongly condemn attempts to involve Pridnestrovie in what is happening in Ukraine,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday, using the formal name for the separatist state, the Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic.