Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appeared to issue a tacit threat to Moldova as his country continues its war against Ukraine, which the Kremlin continues to claim was carried out by the West.

Lavrov said Thursday that Moldova, an Eastern European country and former Soviet republic, is putting itself in danger with its desire to join the European Union. He made the comments during a ministerial conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the world’s largest regional security organization.

In June 2022, the EU and its Member States offered Moldova their full support and granted it candidate status. Support was reaffirmed in March this year, with the EU and its members pledging to continue providing security and economic support to Moldova on its path to accession.

“The Kozak Memorandum, which could have reliably resolved the situation in Moldova 20 years ago, is one of the thwarted attempts to resolve the acute problems of our continent on the basis of OSCE principles,” Lavrov said. “At that time, NATO and EU Brussels unceremoniously torpedoed the document… In fact, Moldova is destined to be the next victim in the hybrid war unleashed by the West against Russia.”

The Kozak Memorandum was a plan proposed by Russia in 2003 that attempted to regulate relations between Moldova and Transnistria, a separatist region that seceded from Moldova in 1990. The memorandum was ultimately rejected by Vladimir Voronin, then President of Moldova.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will take part in the ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in North Macedonia on Thursday. Lavrov made comments that appeared to pose a threat to Moldova, which is awaiting admission to the European Union. ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP via Getty Images

On Thursday, Moldova’s Foreign Ministry rebuked Lavrov’s comments, calling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “brutal” and saying Moldova “has felt the full arsenal of destabilization attempts that Russia has unleashed against us.”

“Russia’s statements, whether today or on previous occasions, are part of the series of hostile actions that the Russian Federation has sought to carry out against our country over the past 30 years,” the statement said. “Fortunately, our partner nations in the West stood by us during this time and helped us successfully overcome these threats.”

The statement continued: “Considering that Minister Lavrov was still present at the OSCE Ministerial Meeting, we hope that our message will be understood – loud and clear – by him too: Moldova is irrevocably joining the European side “We insist today more than ever on the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops from our territory.”

Newsweek I emailed the foreign ministries of Moldova and Russia as well as the EU and OSCE for comment.

On November 24, Russian officials rebuked Moldova and threatened retaliation after its parliament voted to join EU sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine. Moldova’s move is part of efforts to change legislation to allow the country to apply to join the EU.

Anton Gerashchenko, Advisor to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that Lavrov’s comments “confirm that Russia has no intention of taking a stand against Ukraine unless it is stopped.”

Mikhail Troitskiy, a professor of practice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Newsweek that Lavrov’s comments “double down” on Russia’s view that it was encouraged or forced to invade Ukraine because that country was moving closer to NATO membership.

Lavrov’s new comments could prove to be a major red line, he added, as not only NATO membership but also EU membership is now viewed by Russia as unacceptable.

“Lavrov suggests that the problem with Moldova for Russia is also that Moldova and its Western partners are pushing Russia out of the Transnistria process,” Troitskiy said. “But unlike the secessionist republics of Donbass in eastern Ukraine, Transnistria has never been hyped by Russia as a major security challenge for the ‘Russian world,’” Troitskiy said.

“It is therefore self-evident that Moldova sees this as a similar threat to what Moscow did to Kiev at the beginning of 2022,” he said.

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Newsweek strives to challenge conventional wisdom and find connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek strives to challenge conventional wisdom and find connections in the search for common ground.

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