Ukrainian officials have been talking about the risk of another front in the conflict with Russia opening up — along the border with Moldova in the southwest.
Part of the Moldovan border region is controlled by a pro-Russian administration in what’s called Transnistria. Unexplained explosions there earlier this week prompted Ukrainian officials to allege that Russia’s security services were planning provocations in Transnistria as a pretext to open up a new front in the war.
Mykhailo Podoliak, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, told Ukrainian television Wednesday: “We have always considered Transnistria as a springboard from which there may be some risks for us, for [the] Odesa and Vinnytsia regions.”
There is a certain [military] contingent of Russians, it is somewhere between 1,500-2,000 people, of which only 500-600 are Russians,” Podoliak said.
But he said that most people in Transnistria were integrated into Moldova and Europe.
“Therefore, for Transnistria, active involvement in the conflict in Ukraine will practically mean total isolation and destruction of the enclave,” Podoliak noted.
Podoliak suggested that through the incidents this week in Transnistria, Russia was trying to provoke Ukraine.
Roman Kostenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament from Odesa, said Transnistria did not pose a strategic threat to Ukraine.
“It could be a tactical threat, in some direction, in order to bind our troops,” the official said.
Kostenko said the Russians were counting on Transnistria as “another front that could directly support them when they attack, for example, Mykolayiv, Odesa from the sea, because Mykolayiv blocks the land corridor.”
Ukrainian defenses around the city of Mykolaiv have prevented Russian forces from reaching Odesa overland.
The far southwest corner of Ukraine is now cut off from the rest of the country after a road and rail bridge over the estuary of the river Dniester was struck by a second cruise missile Wednesday after first being hit Tuesday. Russia has not said it carried out the missile strike.
Ukraine’s Southern Military Command claimed that Russian submarines continued to threaten missile strikes from the Black Sea. “Enemy forces are also preparing provocations with missile strikes on Transnistria to accuse Ukraine of attacking the unrecognized republic,” it said.