Moldova issues plea for aid as Ukraine war brings multiple crises

Moldova is quickly running out of options to provide “dignified” shelter and care to Ukrainian refugees, Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu said in a media briefing Saturday.

The country needs additional resources from foreign partners in terms of equipment, financial aid and help with relocation of refugees — and all in a matter of “hours and days,” Popescu warned.

“We are by far the most fragile neighbour of Ukraine,” he said, pointing to what he called “pro-war propaganda” backed by Russia and the continued closure of the airspace, in addition to weapons proliferation and a growing refugee crisis. Moldova, with a population of roughly 2.6 million, has so far taken in 237,000 refugees, of whom 113,000 remain on its territory.

Popescu said he expected those numbers to increase.

“We are approaching the breaking point,” he said, noting also a massive economic hit from the loss of imports from Ukraine, chiefly the port of Odesa, as well as a collapse in investor confidence and cross-border activity. “I can easily look ahead at a lost decade in terms of democratic consolidation and economic development for Ukraine, for Moldova.”

“Moldova is in a very, very tight spot,” he added.

Alongside Georgia, the country applied to join the EU in “solidarity” with Ukraine earlier this week, Popescu said. In response, the Transnistria region of the country, ruled by separatists under de facto Russian control, has asked Moscow for recognition of its independence — just like Ukraine’s separatist Donbass region did prior to Russia’s invasion.

“We are waiting for an encouraging signal from the EU,” he said.

Moldova did get a down payment of sorts earlier this week, when the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, visited and pledged €15 million “to help manage the immediate crisis.” And later on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to arrive.

At the same time, the country has no intentions to join global sanctions against Russia or take steps to move closer to NATO, Popescu explained, citing the precarious security situation and the country’s neutral military status, which is enshrined it its constitution.

This story has been updated.

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