Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air announced on Monday it was suspending all its flights to and from Moldova over security concerns related to rising tensions with Russia.
“Due to recent developments and the high, but not imminent, risk in the airspace of the country, Wizz Air has taken the difficult but responsible decision to suspend all its flights to Chisinau from March 14,” the group said in a statement. .
Moldova, a pro-European republic of 2.6 million located between Romania and Ukraine, fears it could be Moscow’s next target since Russia launched its offensive in Ukraine a year ago.
Transnistria, a breakaway separatist region in Moldova that is home to about 400,000 people, is supported economically and militarily by Russia.
And in recent weeks, the EU candidate country has reported “attempts at destabilization,” with the foreign ministry announcing Monday that it had expelled two foreign nationals of unknown origin, believing they were collecting information for a plot to undermine the government.
Wizz Air has announced that it is suspending all flights to Moldova due to security concerns during the Russian war in Ukraine
Moldovan President Maia Sandu
Supporters of the socialist party with signs ‘peace and silence’, ‘ensure peace’, ‘Moldovs are peaceful people’, ‘don’t frighten people’ protest in front of the presidential palace in Chisinau, Moldova, February 25, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Ukrainian refugees and Moldovan citizens protest against the war in Ukraine in front of the Russian embassy in Chisinau, Moldova, February 24, 2023
Moldova has been hit multiple times by debris from the Ukraine war and has occasionally closed off its own airspace during the Ukraine conflict.
The country has also experienced power outages after Ukraine stopped exporting electricity due to Russian airstrikes on critical infrastructure.
But Wizz Air is the first airline to announce such a suspension of flights.
Two weeks ago, Moldova’s President Maia Sandu accused Russia of plotting to violently overthrow the country’s pro-European leadership with the help of saboteurs disguised as anti-government protesters.
Moscow denied the claim.
On Monday, Moldova’s Ministry of Infrastructure said it regretted Wizz Air’s decision, assuring in a statement that flights “complying with a number of procedures can be safely operated.”
Romania’s national carrier Tarom, Air Moldova and Turkish Airlines still fly to the Moldovan capital.
Wizz Air’s decision comes days after Russia told the West on Friday it would view any actions threatening Russian peacekeepers in Transnistria as a direct attack on Russia.
And on Thursday, Russia accused Kiev of plans to invade the region bordering Ukraine. The mainly Russian-speaking area broke from Moldova’s control in 1990, a year before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Pictured is Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu. Moldova’s foreign ministry announced Monday that it has expelled two foreigners of unknown origin, believing they were gathering intelligence for a plot to undermine the government.
Pictured is Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin sensationally made baseless claims last week that Kiev plans to invade a pro-Russian breakaway region of neighboring Moldova
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gestures as he gives a press conference in Kiev on February 24, 2023, on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
“We are warning the United States, NATO member states and their Ukrainian branches not to take another reckless step,” the Russian foreign ministry said.
“Any action that threatens their security will be considered an attack against the Russian Federation under international law.”
There are about 1,700 Russian troops in Transnistria, which has a population of about 440,000.
Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu said what he called Russia’s “provocative” comments about a possible Ukrainian attack were untrue.
“The Moldovan authorities have rejected these statements as baseless, made to manipulate public opinion. The security situation in the region is stable,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app on Friday.
In Kiev, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected Moscow’s claim that Ukraine wanted to take over the region.
Zelensky told a press conference that Russia was constantly engaged in provocations.
“They clearly understand that we respect the territorial integrity of Moldova and we believe that the territory of Transnistria is the territory of the independent state of Moldova,” he said.
Zelensky said last week it was “clear” that Ukraine was not the last country Moscow had targeted and that the Kremlin was considering ways to “strangle” Moldova.