Defence Moldova Russia

Moldova closes airspace, accuses Russia of coup plot

| 2023-02-14 2 min read

Moldova closes airspace, accuses Russia of coup plot

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Moldova shut down its airspace for three hours on Tuesday, 14 February, one day after the country’s head of state accused Russia of plotting to overthrow its government. An unidentified balloon is thought to have caused the disruption.

The move to close the airspace was seen as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of civil aircraft flights. According to Moldova’s civil aviation authority, the advisory to pilots, informing them of the closure of the country’s airspace, was issued at 11:24am local time. Airspace reopened at 2:47pm, three hours later. 

Moldova’s airspace has been strictly controlled since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago. The temporary closure came amid increasing tensions between Moldova and Russia, as the Kremlin wages war against Ukraine, which shares a border with the tiny nation. 

President accuses Russia of plotting to topple gov’t

Moldovan President Maia Sandu has repeatedly expressed her concerns regarding Russia’s intentions towards Moldova, particularly since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. 

Moldova last week claimed that a Russian missile had passed through its airspace en route to Ukraine and summoned the Russian ambassador over the incident.  

Sandu said on Monday that local officials had verified details of an alleged Russian plot to overthrow Moldova’s democratic system and open another front in its war on Ukraine.

The plan involved citizens of Russia, Montenegro, Belarus and Serbia entering Moldova to spark protests and “change the legitimate government to an illegal government controlled by the Russian Federation”, according to Sandu.

Moldovan security forces reportedly thwarted an initial attempt to seize control of the former Soviet republic in the autumn, preventing pro-Kremlin factions from using protests over rising energy prices to force the fall of the government. 

Sandu added that Moscow will attempt to send military operatives in plain clothes to target government buildings or take hostages to force a change in government. 

“The Kremlin’s attempts to bring violence to Moldova will not work. Our main goal is the security of citizens and the state. Our goal is peace and public order in the country,” she said.

“The purpose of these actions is to overturn the constitutional order, to change the legitimate power from (the Moldovan capital) Chisinau to an illegitimate one that would put our country at Russia’s disposal to stop the European integration process, but also so that Moldova can be used by Russia in its war against Ukraine,” Sandu added.

However, Russia’s foreign ministry dismissed the allegations as unfounded, claiming that Ukraine was attempting to draw Moldova into a confrontation with Moscow.  

Although the Kremlin denied Sandu’s accusation, Russian news agency RIA reported that flights had been cancelled during the closure. Eurocontrol, which manages Europe’s airspace, reported that Moldovan airspace had indeed been temporarily closed over security issues. 

Russia attempts to keep Moldova in its orbit

Moldova is a former Soviet republic and has long-standing cultural and historical ties with Russia, but in recent years has positioned itself closer to Europe and the NATO. Last June, it was awarded EU candidate status, along with Ukraine. 

The breakaway region of Transnistria, which is run by a pro-Russian administration and is a base for its troops, has been a long-running flashpoint between Moldova and Russia. 

On Friday Moldova’s prime minister resigned, citing the economic fallout from the war in neighbouring Ukraine. Moldova’s pro-EU one-time interior minister and Sandu’s current defence advisor, Dorin Recean, is expected to be voted through as the country’s prime minister by MPs this week.