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European politics

Is Moldova next on Putin’s hit list?

Moldovan president Maia Sandu. Olivier Douliery/Getty

Vladimir Putin covets all the former Soviet nations, says The Wall Street Journal, and his next target after Ukraine is “almost certainly Moldova”. Since 2020, when Maia Sandu won a landslide election victory on a pro-Western platform, the country has been cultivating closer ties with Europe. In June, EU leaders voted to accept Moldova as a candidate to join the bloc. But earlier this month, Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Ukrainian spies had intercepted a “detailed Russian plan” to destabilise Sandu’s government and use saboteurs to install a Kremlin-backed puppet regime.

Moldova is a vulnerable target. Russia already has troops in Transnistria, a breakaway region bordering Ukraine. The country’s “economic woes” are mounting: GDP per capita has plummeted to just $5,200, and inflation topped 27% in January. This is in large part down to the influx of refugees – despite having a population of just 2.6 million, it has taken in around 110,000 Ukrainians. And Moldova has suffered more than most from the energy crisis. It is reliant on gas from its eastern neighbours, and its energy grid is interconnected with Ukraine’s – so Moscow’s attacks on Ukrainian power plants have resulted in two blackouts over the winter. The situation is so dire that prime minister Natalia Gavrilita resigned two weeks ago, fed up with the “many crises caused by Russian aggression”. Moldova’s plight should remind us what’s at stake in Ukraine. “A victorious Kremlin has other conquests in mind.”