ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy reports from Moldova, a country looking to forge closer ties with its Western partners, much to the ire of Moscow
With a war just over the border, Moldova has good reason to be worried.
However, a year on from the start of Russia’s “special operation” the worry here is tinged with relief that, so far, the battle hasn’t spilled over.
There’s no way this tiny, former Soviet state could have defended itself at the level the Ukrainians have. What’s more the fierce defence mounted by the Ukrainians has kept the Russians from heading straight across the border into Moldova.
That’s why Moldova has a simple ask of the throngs of Western politicians now visiting, “please keep supporting Ukraine because in doing that you’re protecting us too”.
Politicians here aren’t asking for weapons to defend their country because they would simply be stored ready for any advance. They want those weapons to go directly to the Ukrainians for use now, in the hope that will save them having to take up arms in the future.
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But though the ground advance hasn’t materialised, there’s no doubting Russia’s reach here. In recent weeks, intelligence reports suggest a plot to overthrow the Western-leaning government in order to install a more pro-Moscow administration.
There are also regular protests believed to be staged to ferment unrest.
Part of the foreign secretary’s trip is to understand how best Western nations can protect Moldova from the Russian disinformation riling its older citizens, how to protect from the country from cyber attacks and how to insulate the economy now war has weaponised energy and food supplies.
Moldova’s population is very much divided down generational lines.
The protests are full of older people who remember supposed days of Soviet plenty. The younger generation stay away, their eyes more to the west than the east.
But the protests, the disinformation and the sense of disturbance are all very reminiscent of eastern Ukraine in 2014. Russia’s playbook is well known. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to counter.