Ex-Soviet state Moldova is one of many that fears Russian President Vladimir Putin will target them after Ukraine and wants to strengthen ties to the West. The European Union extended visa-free travel to Moldovan citizens.
In response to the Ukraine crisis, the European Union has said it will accelerate the partnerships and from Monday, all citizens of Moldova with a biometric passport can travel visa-free to Europe’s Schengen zone, the European Commission said on Sunday in a statement.
The Schengen zone includes most EU countries and some non-members such as Norway and Switzerland.
It was the EU’s relationship with Ukraine that inspired the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv, which started in November. Now ousted Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych turned down a trade deal with the EU in favor of a $15 billion bailout from Russia. Pro-Westerners and pro-Ukrainians took to the streets and demanded Yanukovych’s resignation. He was ousted three months later.
However, pro-Russian forces in east Ukraine, where the majority of the population are ethnic Russians and Russian speakers, have captured government buildings and demand referendums to be free from Ukraine. The Crimean Black Sea peninsula already voted to leave Ukraine and was annexed by Russia, even though the West does not recognize the action.
Moldova has faced a similar situation with a tiny strip of land that borders Ukraine called Transdneistria. This country is not recognized by the West, EU or NATO, but, like Crimea, “is home to Russian troops and half-a-million people – 30 percent of them ethnic Russians – who look to Russia as their patron.” The visa-free travel could ease the pressure since the European Commission said it extends to all ethnicities and those in Transdneistra.