Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air suspends all flights to and from Moldova due to security concerns linked to growing tensions with Russia

  • The airline said there was  ‘high, though not imminent’ risk in Moldova’s airspace
  • Moldova – a pro-European republic – has feared it could be Russia’s next target 

Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air announced Monday it would suspend all its flights to and from Moldova due to security concerns linked to growing tensions with Russia.

‘Due to recent developments and the high, though not imminent, risk in the country’s airspace, Wizz Air has taken the difficult but responsible decision to suspend all its flights to Chisinau as of March 14,’ the group said in a statement.

Moldova, a pro-European republic of 2.6 million people located between Romania and Ukraine, has feared that it could be Moscow’s next target ever since Russia launched its offensive in Ukraine a year ago.

Transdniestria, a breakaway separatist region in Moldova home to roughly 400,000 people, is economically and militarily supported by Russia.  

And in recent weeks the EU-candidate nation has reported ‘attempts at destabilisation’, with its foreign ministry on Monday announcing it had expelled two foreign nationals of undisclosed origin from the country, believing they were gathering intelligence for a plot to undermine the government. 

Wizz Air has announced it is suspending all flights to Moldova, citing security concerns amid Russia’s war in Ukraine

Moldovan President Maia Sandu

Supporters of the socialists party with placards ‘peace and quiet’, ‘ensure peace’, ‘Moldovans are peaceful people’, ‘don’t scare people’ protest in front of Presidency Palace in Chisinau, Moldova, 25 February 2023, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Ukrainian refugees and Moldovan citizens protest against the war in Ukraine in front of the Russian Embassy in Chisinau, Moldova, 24 February 2023

Moldova has been hit by debris from the war in Ukraine several times and has occasionally shut down its own airspace during the Ukraine conflict.

The country has also suffered energy blackouts after Ukraine stopped exporting electricity because of 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 infrastructure ministry said it regretted Wizz Air’s decision, assuring in a statement that flights, ‘which respect a number of procedures, could be carried out safely’.

The Romanian national airline Tarom, Air Moldova, and Turkish Airlines continue to fly to the Moldovan capital. 

Wizz Air’s decision comes days after Russia told the West on Friday it would view any actions that threatened Russian peacekeepers in Transdniestria as a direct attack on Russia.

And on Thursday, Russia accused Kyiv of planning to invade the region, which borders Ukraine. The mainly Russian-speaking territory broke from Moldova’s control in 1990, a year before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu is pictured.  Moldova’s foreign ministry on Monday announced it had expelled two foreign nationals of undisclosed origin from the country, believing they were gathering intelligence for a plot to undermine the government

Russian President Vladimir Putin is pictured. The Kremlin sensationally made unfounded claims that Kyiv is planning to invade a pro-Russian breakaway region of neighbouring Moldova last week

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gestures as he gives a press conference in Kyiv on February 24, 2023, on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

‘We warn the United States, NATO member states and their Ukrainian wards against taking yet another reckless step,’ Russia’s foreign ministry.

‘Any action that threatens their security will be considered under international law as an attack on the Russian Federation.’

There are around 1,700 Russian troops in Transdniestria, which has a population of roughly 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 unfounded, made to manipulate public opinion. The security situation in the region is stable,’ he wrote on the Telegram messaging app on Friday.

In Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected Moscow’s assertion that Ukraine wanted to take over the region.

Zelensky told a news conference that Russia was engaging on constant provocations.

‘They clearly understand that we respect the territorial integrity of Moldova and we believe the territory of Transdniestria is the territory of the independent state of Moldova,’ he said.

Zelensky last week said it was ‘obvious’ Ukraine was not the last country in Moscow’s sights and that the Kremlin was thinking about ways to ‘strangle’ Moldova.

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