Moldovan President says citizens fighting for Russia in Ukraine will face a range of penalties, from losing their citizenship to stiff jail terms.
Moldovan citizens who also hold Russian citizenship and fight for the Russian side in Ukraine risk losing their Moldovan citizenship, President Maia Sandu said on TV on Wednesday evening.
“A Russian mobilisation could be done in the breakaway [Moldovan] region of Transnistria within the operative group of Russian troops illegally present in Moldova. This mobilisation must be sanctioned,” Sandu said.
Russia keeps about 1,700 soldiers on Moldovan soil in the breakaway Transnistrian region. Of these, about 100 officers are Russians; the others are Transnistrian citizens with Russian citizenship; Moldova in 2015 banned the rotation of the Russian soldier in the region.
These Russian troops from Moldova are divided into peacekeepers with a legal mandate to be in Moldova and the Operative Group of Russian Troops, OGRT, which has no mandate but has refused to evacuate for more than 30 years.
De facto, the Russian peacemakers and OGRT troops are the same, performing a rotation mission between the Security Zone on the Dniester Rivers banks and Soviet-era ammunition deposits in the village of Cobasna, where about 20,000 tons of ammunition are stored.
According to Sandu, Moldovan citizens who fight for Russia in Ukraine must be penalised – and the Justice Ministry will come up with new proposals for sanctions shortly.
At the same time, all Moldovan citizens with or without Russian citizenship who go to fight in Ukraine risk being jailed as mercenaries.
According to Moldova’s Penal Code, the participation of the Moldovan citizens in an armed conflict is punishable with imprisonment from 5 to 10 years while those who deal with hiring, training and financing mercenaries face imprisonment from 10 to 15 years.
Although the regulation is clear, Moldovan authorities threaten those who might join Russian troops and based on the official statements from the government, it is not clear yet whether those Moldovan citizens who fight alongside Ukraine army will be subjected to penalization.
Sandu on Wednesday also said Moldova will not recognise the referendums being held under Russian auspices in Russian-occupied easterm Ukraine as a prelude to official annexation.
She also said Moldova has no information as yet on whether the Transnistrian region plans to organise a similar referendum on joining Russia.
“We do not recognise the referendums [in Ukraine], nor the results of these referendums. We respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine in internationally recognised borders,” Sandu said.
Pro-Russian parties and authorities in separatist regions of Transnistria and Gagauzia have not reacted yet.