Moldova arrests paramilitaries who ‘planned pro-Russian uprising’

MoldovaPolice in Moldova says it arrested members of a paramilitary group who allegedly planned to attack several cities and establish a separatist pro-Russian enclave. According to Moldovan authorities, the group, whose members include Ukrainian and Russian nationals, aimed to create a pro-Russian republic along the lines of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Ukraine. Representatives from Moldova’s General Police Inspectorate told journalists on Thursday that they began monitoring a group calling itself “Budjak Republic” in October, after pro-Russian supporters in Moldova’s Russian-dominated south began calling for independence.

Located in southwester Ukraine, the Budjak region is sandwiched between Moldova and the Black Sea. Its population is multiethnic, comprising of Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Russian, and Moldovan speakers. But following the war in Donbass, some nationalists in Budjak’s Russian-speaking community called for a united front of ethnic Russians in Moldova and Ukraine. The expressed goal of these nationalists is to establish a pro-Russian “Budjak Republic” that would incorporate regions in southwestern Ukraine and southern Moldova. According to Moldovan authorities, pro-separatist cells have been most vocal in cities such as Taraclia, Comrat and Balti, which have substantial ethnic-Russian populations.

The arrests of the alleged paramilitaries were announced last Thursday by Moldova’s acting chief of police, Gheorghe Cavaliuc. He told reporters that the separatist group intended to launch attacks against state buildings, which included government ministries in the capital Chisinau, as well as a prison in Balti. It then hoped to recruit more members, including prisoners, and attack the homes of government officials. Cavaliuc said that at least one member of the paramilitary group is a Russian-speaking Ukrainian national from the Donbass region, and that another member is a Russian customs officer. Both were charged with being members of a criminal gang, said Cavaliuc.

Moldova, which has deep historical links with neighboring Romania, has a history of pro-Russian separatism. In 1990, the Moldovan region of Transnistria, which is largely populated by Russian and Ukrainian speakers, broke off from Moldova and declared itself independent under the name “Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic”. Another of Moldova’s heavily pro-Russian regions, Gagauzia, which borders Ukraine’s Budjak region, declared itself autonomous —but stopped short of announcing full independence— in 1994.

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