U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pledged Washington's support to Moldova, a small, Western-leaning former Soviet republic that is contending with an influx of refugees from neighboring Ukraine.
Moldova says that more than 230,000 refugees have crossed its border with Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24. At least 120,000 of them remain in the country, officials said.
Moldova is appealing for international assistance in dealing with the refugees, while also seeking security reassurances against potential Russian aggression.
Speaking alongside Moldovan President Maia Sandu in Chisinau on March 6, Blinken said that the United States supported Moldova's aspirations to join the European Union but that the process would be decided by the EU.
Moldova formally applied to join the European Union on March 3. The move was likely to anger Russia, which has an estimated 1,500 troops based in the breakaway region of Transdniester in Moldova’s east.
Sandu said that there had not yet been any indication that the Russian soldiers in Transdniester had changed posture but stressed that it was a concern given what is happening in Ukraine.
“This is a subject of high vulnerability and we watch it carefully," Sandu said. “In this region now there is no possibility for us to feel safe.”
Blinken said the United States was providing $18 million over the next few years to "strengthen and diversify" Moldova's energy sector. Moldova depends heavily on Russian gas.
Information from AFP and AP was used in this report.