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Despite Russian Allegations, Moldova's Dodon Finds No Fault With Training Base

Moldovan President Igor Dodon said that all activities at the training ground were following a normal schedule. (file photo)
Moldovan President Igor Dodon said that all activities at the training ground were following a normal schedule. (file photo)

Moldovan President Igor Dodon says he discovered nothing "dubious" during an inspection of a Moldovan Army training base that a Russian media report claimed would house U.S.-funded "military facilities."

Dodon, who has courted Russia and is at odds with his country's pro-European Union government, spoke after an August 14 visit to the Bulboaca training base in southeastern Moldova.

A report published on state-backed Russian channel RT's website on August 7 said that the U.S. Navy would fund work on eight military facilities at Bulboaca, which is located some 30 kilometers from Tiraspol, capital of the breakaway Transdniester region. The Moldovan Defense Ministry dismissed the article as disinformation.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who was declared persona non grata by Moldova's government earlier this month following controversial statements about the country, subsequently shared the RT article on Facebook and wrote that "the Americans are beginning to train saboteurs and special forces of the Republic of Moldova in the event of a new armed conflict with Transdniester."

Following the RT article and Rogozin's statement, Dodon announced last week that he would go to Bulboaca himself to make sure no Moldovan soldiers would become "part or pieces in the mechanism of a military bloc, be it Eastern or Western."

But after his visit to Bulboaca, Dodon said at a news conference and later on his Facebook page that all activities at the training ground were following a normal schedule.

"Repair work is under way to fix some barracks and some infrastructure on the shooting range," Dodon said.

"I did not detect any dubious military works that could lead to the destabilization of the situation in the security zone [between Transdniester and the rest of Moldova] or to the involvement of foreign militaries in the area, as has been speculated in the media in the past several days," Dodon said.

Dodon said that he planned to inspect all of Moldova's military installations by the end of August, and to convene the country's Supreme Security Council to discuss the state of the those installations. His goal, he said, was to ensure that Moldova's neutrality is respected and Moldova won't be dragged into any regional conflict.

Since 2012, Moldova has been benefiting from a $1.6 million grant to modernize the Bulboaca base as a partner within the U.S.-funded Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) -- part of a broader action plan adopted in 2004 by what was then the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries to improve international and regional peacekeeping operations.

The Defense Ministry has clarified that the funds from the GPOI were used to improve the training of a Moldovan peacekeeping battalion involved in UN peacekeeping missions that do not affect Moldova's neutrality.

U.S. Ambassador to Moldova James Pettit visited Bulboaca on August 10 to check how GPOI funds are being used. The U.S. Embassy in Chisinau says the United States has invested $1.1 million to improve training areas and roads at Bulboaca, and anticipates investing a further $1.2 million to train Moldovan peacekeepers.

But Pettit on August 10 clarified that a separate type of U.S. military aid under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program was on a temporary "break."

Pettit's statement came after former Moldovan Defense Minister Anatol Salaru said Washington had suspended $12.7 million in military aid because Dodon blocked Moldova's participation in international military exercises.

In February, Dodon refused to sign a decree allowing Moldovan troops to attend the Platinum Eagle 2017 exercise in Romania together with several NATO and non-NATO states.

He argued at the time that there was no clear motivation for Moldova to attend.

With reporting by Diana Raileanu of RFE/RL's Moldovan Service

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