By Igarashi Tomoko
Moldova, the poorest nation in Europe, is actively receiving refugees from its neighbor, Ukraine. Moldovan Ambassador to Japan Dumitru Socolan told the Mainichi Shimbun that his nation is prepared to continue to receive refugees despite the fact that it “comes at a cost.”
Ukrainian refugees have been rushing to the Moldovan border since Feb. 24, the day that Russia initiated its invasion of Ukraine. Moldova has welcomed nearly 400,000 refugees, which is over 10% of the population of Moldova.
The government has set up “refugee centers” at hotels and other facilities in more than 100 locations. Refugees are able to receive various kinds of support there, including food, healthcare, and psychological care. In addition, many Moldovans are reportedly also volunteering their help by posting their contact information on social networking sites (SNS) and by going to the border and offering to take refugees into their homes.
The Ambassador was frank about the economic burden of receiving refugees: “We had made preparations for a natural disaster, but the number of refugees is well beyond what we had planned for.” The Ambassador then said “the pressure has lessened” because Germany, Spain, and other European countries have decided to take in some of the refugees and the G7 has created the Moldova Support Group.
Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine, under the pretext of protecting the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, two regions in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian forces. In the eastern part of Moldova is “Transnistria,” which is controlled by pro-Russian factions and unilaterally declared its independence in 1990. Some say that “Russia’s next target is Moldova.” The Ambassador said, “We strongly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.” The pro-Russian region of eastern Ukraine has been fighting for eight years, but “there have been no military conflicts since 1992” in the eastern section of Moldova, he said, thus indicating his sense that Moldova is in no imminent danger.
Ambassador Socolan expressed his appreciation to the Japanese people for their assistance. Ever since the Japanese media started covering the situation in Moldova, there has been an endless stream of people coming to the Moldovan Embassy or telephoning, offering to help. “I am deeply touched by the kindness of the Japanese people,” said the Ambassador.