Lavrov warns Moldova about threats to peacekeepers

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s foreign minister warned Thursday that any actions seen as endangering a Russian peacekeeping contingent in a separatist region of Moldova would be considered as an attack on Russia itself.

Sergey Lavrov’s statement in an address at Russia’s top foreign affairs school underlined concerns that Moldova’s Transnistria region, which borders Ukraine, could be drawn into the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Russia has stationed peacekeepers there since the 1992 end of a three-month war that left Transnistria outside Moldovan control. Russian forces also guard a large ammunition dump in the region.

In April, tensions in Moldova soared after a series of explosions in Transnistria.

“Everyone should understand that any kind of actions that will raise a threat to the security of our servicemen will be considered in accordance with international law as an attack on the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said.

After Lavrov’s comments, Moldova’s foreign ministry summoned Russia’s charge d’affaires for “clarification.”

“We remind the Russian side that the legislation of the Republic of Moldova guarantees fundamental human rights and freedoms,” the ministry said.

In June, European Union leaders agreed to grant Moldova candidate status in its bid to join the 27-nation bloc.

At the time, European Council President Charles Michel called the decisions to give both Moldova and Ukraine candidate status, a “historic moment” that “marks a crucial step on your path towards the EU.”

Moldova will need to enact reforms in areas such as tackling corruption, organized crime, strengthening human rights and the rule of law before it can join. The former Soviet republic applied to join the EU just days after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Moldova, which is constitutionally neutral, is not seeking NATO membership.

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