Russia warns Moldova not to threaten its troops in breakaway region

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Moldova on Thursday that threatening the security of Russian troops in the breakaway region of Transnistria could spark a military confrontation with Moscow.

Russia has had peacekeeping troops in Transnistria since the early 1990s, when an armed conflict wrested most of the region from Moldovan control from pro-Russian separatists.

Russia claims its army is there to maintain peace and stability, but Moldova wants Moscow to withdraw its forces.

“Everyone must understand that any action that threatens the security of our troops (in Transnistria) would be considered under international law as an attack on Russia, as happened in South Ossetia when our peacekeepers were attacked by (former Georgian President ) Saakashvili,” Lavrov said.

That incident, in 2008, led to a five-day war in which the Russian military took several Georgian cities. Soon after, Moscow recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian territory, Abkhazia, as independent.

Transnistria, which relies heavily on support from Moscow, reported a series of sporadic attacks in April, further raising tensions already high after Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, which borders Moldova.

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