22 Mar 2022 18:59

Moldovan foreign minister states Chisinau's neutrality on situation around Ukraine

CHISINAU. March 22 (Interfax) - Moldova will pursue a policy of neutrality with regard to the situation in Ukraine, Moldovan Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Nicolae Popescu said.

"The government's legal mandate is to ensure the neutrality of Moldova. This is spelt out in our constitution, and this is what citizens voted for. This is the framework in which we are working," Popescu said in an interview with EURACTIV.

Asked about a potential threat from Transdniestria, which hosts an operational group of Russian troops, the minister said that there was no sign of any preparations for military action in that region. "We are working on the premise that Moldova is not a military target and we see no reason why we should be attacked. At the same time, the government must prepare for any scenario, including, of course, the worst-case one," Popescu said.

The biggest challenge now facing Moldova is the influx of refugees, he said. "We understand that we need to be ready for a new wave of refugees should the escalation in Ukraine continue. There is the risk of a rapid manifold increase in refugees if the fighting zone gets near the Moldovan border," Popescu said, adding that a new wave of migrants could lead to more dramatic consequences for his country.

"We need support with moving [refugees to the EU], and we have received some offers on this issue. We also need support in helping those who have decided to stay, which puts considerable pressure on our country and society," Popescu said.

Since February 24, Moldova has taken in 333,949 Ukrainian citizens, 234,747 of whom travelled on to Romania and the rest of Europe. Of the 97,057 Ukrainian citizens who remain in Moldova, 5,403 have applied for asylum in the country.