Moldova temporarily closed its air space today, the day after the country’s president warned that Russia was plotting a coup to overthrow her pro-Western government.
‘Dear passengers, at this moment, the airspace of the Republic of Moldova is closed. We are waiting for the resumption of flights,’ Air Moldova said on Facebook.
The announcement comes at a time of tensions between the former Soviet republic and Russia as Moscow wages war in Ukraine, which shares a border with Moldova.
Tuesday saw Russia angrily reject the Moldovan president’s claims about an alleged plot by Moscow to overthrow her government, and accused Moldovan authorities of trying to distract public attention away from the country’s own domestic problems.
But local reports said the Moldovan government may have closed its air space due to the planned arrival of football fans from Serbia for a Europe League football match between FC Sheriff and Partizan Belgrade, scheduled for Thursday.
Pictured: A map showing flights over Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and other countries in the region. Moldova is shown as having no planes in its skies after the country temporarily closed its airspace, after the country’s President said Monday Russia was plotting a coup
‘Moldova’s airspace was temporarily closed at 11:24 am (0924 GMT), 14 February, in order to assure the safety and security of civil aviation,’ Moldova’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a press release. ‘At 14:47 pm (1247 GMT) the airspace was re-opened,’ it added, without giving further details.
Moldova’s President Maia Sandu said Monday that the purported Russian plot envisioned attacks on government buildings, hostage-takings and other violent actions by groups of saboteurs in order to put the nation ‘at the disposal of Russia’ and derail its hopes to join the European Union.
Alongside internal forces such as those controlled by a fugitive oligarch named Ilan Shor, Moscow would allegedly plan to use foreign citizens from Russia, Belarus, Serbia and Montenegro to implement its plans, Sandu said.
Partizan Belgrade is a football team from Serbia’s capital. It was announced yesterday that Thursday’s match would be played behind closed doors.
Radio Chisinau reported that 12 Serbian football fans were refused entry to Moldova on Monday, and that the arrival of more fans on Tuesday may have been the reason behind the air space closure.
The local station said officials suspected ‘diversionists’ from Serbia could have been among the football fans due to arrive.
However, this theory was later contradicted by another Moldovan newspaper , which reported that ‘a foreign drone’ was ‘flying without permission’.
Responding Tuesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed Sandu’s claims as ‘absolutely unfounded and unsubstantiated.’
‘They are built in the spirit of classical techniques that are often used by the United States, other Western countries and Ukraine,’ Zakharova said.
‘First, accusations are made with reference to purportedly classified intelligence information that cannot be verified, and then they are used to justify their own illegal actions,’ she argued.
Moldova’s President Maia Sandu said Monday that Russia was planning a coup that would see attacks on government buildings, hostage-takings and other violent actions by groups of saboteurs in order to put the nation ‘at the disposal of Russia’ and derail its hopes to join the EU
Sandu’s claim came a week after neighbouring Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country had intercepted plans by Russian secret services to destabilise and destroy Moldova.
Moldovan intelligence officials later said that they confirmed the allegations.
Zakharova charged that Kyiv made up the claim about a purported Russian plan to destabilise Moldova in order to draw it into a confrontation with Russia.
She argued that Moldovan authorities used ‘the myth about a Russian threat to distract Moldovan citizens’ attention from internal problems resulting from a disastrous social-economic course of the current administration and to step up the fight against dissent and political opponents.’
Zakharova insisted that Russia poses no threat to Moldova and hopes to develop mutually beneficial cooperation.
Since Russian troops rolled into Ukraine last year, Moldova, a former Soviet republic of about 2.6 million people, has sought to forge closer ties with its Western partners.
Last June, it was granted EU membership candidate status, the same day as Ukraine.
In December, Moldova’s national intelligence agency warned that Russia could launch a new offensive with the aim of creating a land corridor through southern Ukraine to Moldova’s Moscow-backed breakaway region of Transnistria.
Transnistria broke away after a 1992 civil war but is not recognised by most nations.
It extends roughly 250 miles from the eastern bank of the Dniester River to the country’s border with Ukraine. Russia has about 1,500 troops nominally as ‘peacekeepers’ in the breakaway region.