Moldova holds security talks over blasts in Russia-backed region

A woman walks past a coat of arms of Transnistria — Moldova’s pro-Russian breakaway region on the eastern border with Ukraine, in Transnistria’s capital of Tiraspol, Sept. 11, 2021. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 26 April 2022

Moldova holds security talks over blasts in Russia-backed region

  • A series of blasts in the Russian-backed separatist Transnistria region has raised fears of a spillover from the war in Ukraine
  • The blasts came as the conflict in Ukraine has provoked fears in Moldova that the country could become Russia's next target

CHISINAU: Ex-Soviet Moldova on Tuesday convened its security council after a series of blasts in the Russian-backed separatist Transnistria region raised fears of a spillover from the war in Ukraine.
The breakaway region saw explosions hit its security ministry on Monday and a radio tower on Tuesday morning.
President Maia Sandu was to hold a meeting of the country’s Supreme Security Council “in connection with the incidents in the Transnistria region,” her office said, with a press briefing to follow.
The blasts came as the conflict in Ukraine has provoked fears in Moldova that the country could become Russia’s next target.
A Russian military chief last week angered Moldova by referring to “oppression” of Russian speakers in Trasnistria.
The Kremlin expressed “concern” over the blasts and Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted a source in the Trasnistria government as saying that attackers had entered from Ukraine.
The OSCE in Moldova tweeted that it “condemns all attempts to destabilize (the) situation” in Transnistria and its buffer zone.
Two explosions hit a radio tower re-broadcasting Russian stations near the Ukrainian border early Tuesday, the interior ministry of the breakaway region said.
The ministry said two “powerful” antennae that were re-broadcasting Russian radio were out of order, and shared images of them lying on the ground.
There were no injuries, it added.
Earlier the Transnistrian authorities said the offices of the state security ministry in Tiraspol were hit by what appeared to be a grenade-launcher attack on Monday evening.
No one was injured in the incident, which happened at around 5:00 p.m. on a public holiday for the Orthodox Easter.
But windows and doors were blown out in the state security ministry building and smoke was “billowing out of the buildings,” the Transnistria region’s interior ministry said in a statement.
Transnistria’s security council also said that a military unit had been hit in the village of Parkany close to the main city of Tiraspol, regional TV reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “We are observing closely and the news prompts concern,” while declining to comment on the possible attackers.
Transnistrian leader Vadim Krasnoselsky said on Telegram that threats to the region had “become real” and “each challenge will receive an appropriate response.”
The region declared a “red” level of terror threat for the next 15 days, stepping up security checks on roads and its frontier with Moldova, switching schools to remote learning and canceling a parade commemorating World War II victory on May 9.
RIA Novosti quoted a source in the Transnistrian government as saying three unidentified individuals unofficially crossed the border from Ukraine, attacked the security ministry, then crossed back.
Transnistria is an unrecognized Moscow-backed breakaway region that seceded in 1990, followed by a short war in 1992, with the Russian army fighting alongside separatists against Moldovan forces.
The frozen conflict has seen Russia deploying troops there ever since.
The region is located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Moldova’s capital Chisinau, bordering western Ukraine.
Moscow still has a military base there, guarding a stockpile of some 20,000 tons of munitions.
Chisinau has long called for the Russian troops to leave.
A senior Russian military official last week raised the issue of “oppression” of Russian speakers in Transnistria in the context of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.
Moldova’s foreign ministry summoned Russia’s ambassador over the comments.
Moldova, a former Soviet republic of 2.6 million people is one of Europe’s poorest countries.
President Sandu was elected in 2020 on a pro-Western program and since the Ukraine conflict began, the country has had a flurry of visits by Western officials including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and a financing boost from the IMF.
Unlike neighboring Romania, Moldova is not a member of NATO. It formally requested to join the bloc in March.


Dead Indian soldier found after 38 years on 'world's highest battlefield'

Updated 6 sec ago

Dead Indian soldier found after 38 years on 'world's highest battlefield'

  • With temperatures that can plunge to minus 50 degrees Celsius, Siachen is one of the toughest military deployments in the world 
  • Decades after the first battle for Siachen, both India and Pakistan continue to maintain a military presence in the extremely remote area 

NEW DELHI: The body of an Indian soldier who went missing 38 years ago on a glacier on the disputed border with Pakistan has been found.  

A unit of the Indian Army tweeted pictures of the coffin of Chander Shekhar wrapped in an Indian flag early Wednesday, two days after India celebrated the 75th anniversary of independence.  

The Army said Shekhar was deployed for Operation Meghdoot in 1984 when India and Pakistan fought a brief battle to assert control over the Siachen Glacier, reputed to be the world's highest battlefield.  

At over 18,000 feet (5,486 metres) with temperatures that can plunge to minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 Fahrenheit), Siachen is one of the toughest military deployments in the world.  

Located in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, it has long been contested between the nuclear-armed neighbours.  

Local media reported that Shekhar was part of a 20-member group that got caught in an ice storm during a patrol.  

Fifteen bodies were recovered at the time but the other five could not be found, among them Shekhar, the reports said.  

His last rites will now be performed with full military honours in the state of Uttarakhand, where his family lives.  

His daughter, who was four years old when he went missing, said the family would now get closure.  

"He has been long gone... Papa has come but I wish he was alive," the Hindustan Times newspaper quoted her saying.  

Decades after the first battle for Siachen, both India and Pakistan continue to maintain a military presence in the extremely remote area.  

 


Former Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa will return next week — local media

Updated 31 min 20 sec ago

Former Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa will return next week — local media

  • Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the first Sri Lankan president to quit mid-term, is temporarily sheltering in Thailand
  • Rajapaksa has made no public appearances or comment since leaving Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa will return to the island nation next week after fleeing in July amid mass protests, local broadcaster Newsfirst reported on Wednesday, citing a former ambassador.
Udayanga Weeratunga, a former Sri Lankan envoy to Russia who is related to Rajapaksa, said he will arrive in Sri Lanka on Aug. 24, Newsfirst reported.
Rajapaksa, the first Sri Lankan president to quit mid-term, is temporarily sheltering in Thailand, after fleeing Sri Lanka on a military plane to the Maldives and then spending weeks in Singapore.
He resigned from office soon after arriving in Singapore, facing public anger over his government’s handling of Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.
Rajapaksa has made no public appearances or comment since leaving Sri Lanka. Reuters was not able to immediately contact him or Weeratunga.
The office of Rajapaksa’s successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who suggested last month that the former president refrain from returning to Sri Lanka in the near future, did not immediately respond for a request for comment.
“I don’t believe it’s the time for him to return,” Wickremesinghe told the Wall Street Journal in an interview on July 31. “I have no indication of him returning soon.”

Myanmar junta hits back at ASEAN after being barred from meetings

Updated 52 min 1 sec ago

Myanmar junta hits back at ASEAN after being barred from meetings

  • ASEAN has barred Myanmar’s generals from attending regional meetings
  • Junta has declined offers to send non-political representatives instead to ASEAN meetings

Myanmar’s military leadership on Wednesday lashed out at the ASEAN grouping of Southeast Asian countries for excluding its generals from regional gatherings, accusing it of caving to “external pressure.”
Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have heaped condemnation on Myanmar’s junta, which they say has failed to make concrete progress on a peace plan agreed with the 10-nation bloc last year, including engaging with opponents and a cessation of hostilities.
Myanmar’s military seized power from an elected government in a coup last year, and has since then crushed dissent with lethal force. Most recently, the junta has been criticized for executing political activists and imprisoning Aung San Suu Kyi, the symbol of Myanmar’s opposition and democracy movement.
ASEAN has barred Myanmar’s generals from attending regional meetings, and some members said last month it would be forced to rethink the way forward unless the junta demonstrates progress on the peace plan.
The junta has declined offers to send non-political representatives instead to ASEAN meetings.
“If a seat representing a country is vacant, then it should not be labelled an ASEAN summit,” junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun said at a routine news conference on Wednesday, adding that Myanmar was working on implementing the peace plan.
“What they want is for us to meet and talk with the terrorists,” he said, using the junta’s label for pro-democracy movements that have taken up arms against the military.
He said ASEAN was violating its own policy of non-interference in a country’s sovereign affairs while facing “external pressure,” but did not elaborate.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia, which is currently chairing ASEAN, did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
Several western countries including the United States and Britain have imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s junta over the coup.


Rohingya refugees in India’s capital to be given flats, security

Updated 17 August 2022

Rohingya refugees in India’s capital to be given flats, security

  • There have been isolated incidents of violence toward Rohingya in India

NEW DELHI: Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in India’s capital will be allotted apartments and provided with police protection, a government minister said on Wednesday, signalling a change in the stance toward members of the Muslim minority.
“India has always welcomed those who have sought refuge,” Minister for Housing and Urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter, outlining new provisions for Rohingya refugees in New Delhi.
“India respects & follows UN Refugee Convention 1951 & provides refuge to all, regardless of their race, religion or creed,” Puri said.
Puri did not elaborate on what he said would be “round-the- clock” police protection but there have been isolated incidents of violence toward Rohingya in India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has previously tried to send back members of the Muslim minority from predominately Buddhist Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled from persecution and waves of violence in their homeland over the years.


South Korea president says any talks with Pyongyang should be more than show

Updated 17 August 2022

South Korea president says any talks with Pyongyang should be more than show

  • Yoon Suk-yeol repeats his willingness to provide phased economic aid to North Korea

SEOUL: Talks with North Korea should not be for political show but contribute to establishing peace, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said on Wednesday, speaking at a wide-ranging press conference to mark his first 100 days in office.
Yoon repeated his willingness to provide phased economic aid to North Korea if it ended nuclear weapons development and began denuclearization, noting that he had called for a dialogue with Pyongyang since his campaign.
“Any dialogue between the leaders of the South and North, or negotiations between main working-level officials, should not be a political show, but should contribute to establishing substantive peace on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia,” he said.
The comments were an apparent criticism of a series of summits involving his predecessor Moon Jae-in, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and then-US President Donald Trump.
Despite those meetings, denuclearization talks stalled in 2019 and North Korea has said it will not trade away its self-defense, though it has called for an end to sanctions. It has been observed preparing for a possible nuclear test, which would be its first since 2017.
South Korea was not in a position to guarantee the North’s security if it gave up its nuclear weapons, but Seoul did not want a forced change in the status quo in the North, Yoon said.
The North’s recent missile tests and nuclear development has revived debate over whether the South should pursue its own nuclear weapons. Yoon said that he was committed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and working with the United States to boost its “extended deterrence” for South Korea.
“The NPT should not be abandoned and I will adhere to that until the end,” he said.