Hundreds of Russian troops guard a vast Soviet-era ammunition depot in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, just a short drive from Ukraine’s southern border.
This depot, these soldiers, and this pro-Russian separatist region are gaining international attention.
In recent weeks, accusations have flowed between Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova about alleged plots to destabilize Moldova, as well as warnings about the possibility of conflict erupting here again.
Moldova’s prime minister, Dorin Recean, has said Russian troops should be withdrawn from the region, amid President Maia Sandu’s warnings that Moscow is plotting to destabilize her pro-Western government.
Meanwhile, Russia has raised the prospect of a “false flag” attack by Ukrainian forces, warning that any attack on its troops in Transnistria would be interpreted as an attack on Russia itself.
Many Western analysts believe Transnistria could provide Russia with another entry point into Ukraine, diverting Ukrainian troops away from other battlegrounds.
So Transnistria, which has been ruled by pro-Russian separatists since Moldova’s civil war ended in 1992, is being closely watched both globally and by those much closer to home.
The threat of renewed conflict looms large over the village of Molovata Noua.
This is a tiny Moldovan enclave wedged against Transnistrian territory and separated from the rest of the country by the Dneister River.
Residents of Molovata Noua feel completely exposed, whereas Chisinau residents feel vulnerable.
Many of the older men in this town fought pro-Russian separatists for control of this land 30 years ago. They’re wondering if they’ll have to fight again here.
Veterans of that conflict gathered in Molovata Noua on Friday for an annual pilgrimage across the line of control into Transnistria to remember those who perished.