Moldova temporarily closed its airspace on Tuesday over a “flying object resembling a weather balloon,” amid tensions with Russia accused of wanting to destabilize the country and NATO member Romania, which has launched fighters.
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This former Soviet republic, located at the gates of Ukraine, announced this decision at midday, which led to the suspension of all flights. Local media then called “security reasons” without further details.
In a press release published in the evening, the Directorate of Civil Aviation said it had “received a report that a small unidentified object had been detected”.
“Given the weather conditions and the inability to track and identify the object and its trajectory,” the airspace was closed as a precaution. It reopened at 2:46 p.m. (12:46 p.m.) after the danger had passed.
Amid mysterious flying objects shot down by the United States, neighboring Romania also spotted a similar target that “had the characteristics of a meteorological balloon” and was flying at an altitude of about 11,000 meters, not knowing if it was the same machine acted.
Two Romanian fighter jets under NATO command were sent to clarify the situation, but “the presence of the air target could not be confirmed either visually or on the airborne radars,” the Defense Ministry said.
This Moldovan move comes as the small country decided to step up security measures amid alleged plans by Moscow to overthrow the pro-European power in Chisinau.
“The plan includes attacks on state buildings and kidnappings by saboteurs with a military background disguised in civilian clothes,” President Maia Sandu told reporters on Monday.
In her opinion, the Kremlin is relying on “the participation of internal forces” such as the party of the fugitive pro-Russian oligarch Ilan Sor, but also possible Russian, Belarusian, Serbian and Montenegrin nationals.
This information, mentioned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Brussels last week, comes from documents intercepted by the Ukrainian intelligence services.
Maia Sandu, President of Moldova | AFP
Russia denied this on Tuesday.
The Moldovan leader’s claims are “absolutely unfounded and without evidence,” the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned in a press release.
In this regard, the authorities have decided to hold a football match scheduled for Thursday between a Moldovan club and a team from Belgrade behind closed doors. The secret services feared that the stands were being infiltrated by troublemakers.
In this tense context, Ilhan Shor’s populist party announced the holding of anti-government demonstrations this Sunday in the Moldovan capital.
This Israeli-born businessman-turned-politician in Moldova, a country he fled in 2019, was sanctioned by Washington in October 2022 for pro-Russian interference and corruption.
Mr Shor, who was married to a singer decorated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, was convicted in 2014 of embezzling $1 billion from Moldovan banks.
According to the US Treasury Department, he worked with Russia to create an alliance before the 2021 elections and then, with Moscow’s support, tried to undermine Moldova’s efforts to join the European Union.