Unless it receives urgent help, Moldova faces a catastrophe. The government estimated before the invasion that it could accommodate just 15,000 Ukrainians. Already, refugee centres are full, the border guards are overstretched and stocks of relief supplies are running dangerously low. If nearby Odessa, a city of 1m people just 50km from the border, comes under Russian assault, as seems entirely possible, tens of thousands more will come. “The prospects are dire,” says Mr Popescu. “We are talking about a major threat to the whole state system.”
The government intends to ask the eu to deploy Frontex, the eu’s border agency, to support its own border police. But it is financial support, above all, that is needed. The European offer of just €15m ($16.5m) to help allay the immediate crisis is meagre. The government is already running a big and growing deficit, owing in part to the rising price of natural gas imported from Russia. The economy has suffered two recessions in recent years, the most recent because of the pandemic. Without generous help, Moldova will not cope. Yet many Moldovans feel that they have been forgotten, as aid and praise rain down on Ukraine’s far richer neighbours in the eu.
Moreover, the refugee crisis may only be the first part in what many fear will be a two-act tragedy. There is widespread nervousness that Russia does not intend to leave Moldova alone if it is successful in Ukraine.
— Tim Judah (@timjudah1) March 9, 2022