Russian-occupied area of Moldova blames Ukrainian militants for explosions
KYIV, Ukraine — The president of Trans-Dniester, a Russian-occupied, self-proclaimed independent republic, says his government has traced recent attacks to Ukraine, according to Russian state media. President Vadim Krasnoselsky has called on Kyiv to investigate what he calls the infiltration of Trans-Dniester by Ukrainian militant groups.
Krasnoselsky was referring to explosions Tuesday morning that knocked down two radio towers that broadcast in Russian and to what authorities called a "terrorist attack" on a military unit near the Trans-Dniestrian capital of Tiraspol.
On Monday, the authorities in Trans-Dniester also reported a series of explosions at the Ministry of State Security. They attributed the damage to rocket-propelled grenade launchers. There were no reports of injuries in any of the attacks.
Ukraine's Ministry of Defense described the recent attacks as "false-flag" operations staged by Russia's Federal Security Service, known as the FSB. The purpose, they say, is to spark panic and provide a potential pretext for mobilizing Russian troops in Trans-Dniester to attack Ukraine.
Trans-Dniester, which is part of the former Soviet Republic of Moldova, usually doesn't get much attention. But political and military leaders in Europe are watching it closely because it is home to about 1,500 Russian troops and shares a 250-mile border with Ukraine.
Trans-Dniester moved to separate from Moldova in the early 1990s amid the collapse of the Soviet Union. The territory, which was loyal to the USSR, fought a short war with Moldovan troops. Russian soldiers intervened on the Trans-Dniestrian side and the fighting forces reached a cease-fire in 1992.
Trans-Dniester declared itself a republic, though it remains internationally unrecognized — even by Russia. Last month, the Council of Europe described Trans-Dniester as Russian-occupied territory. Moscow insists its forces are peacekeeping troops.
Recently, a senior Russian military official, Maj. Gen. Rustam Minnekayev, claimed Moscow's military objectives now included control over all of southern Ukraine — a move that Minnekayev said would allow Russian forces to provide additional protections to Russian-speakers facing "oppression" in Trans-Dniester.
While it was unclear whether Minnekayev's comments reflected official government policy, Moldova's Foreign Ministry summoned Russia's ambassador to express "deep concern" over the incident.
U.S. military officials doubt Russia has the military capacity to stretch its forces across the south of Ukraine into the Moldovan breakaway region.
Charles Maynes contributed reporting to this story.
This story originally appeared inthe Morning Edition live blog.
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