Moldovan President Igor Dodon has demanded the dismissal of acting defense chief Gheorghe Galbura after the military sent soldiers to a multinational training exercise in Ukraine against the president's wishes.
The Russia-friendly Dodon in a Facebook post on September 8 accused his country's pro-Western government of trying to "add the Moldovan Army to the NATO side" and involve it in "geopolitical confrontations."
"We see how the government is trying to make use of various legal tricks to involve Moldovans in NATO military exercises, and it is obvious that the prime minister is taking advantage of the irresponsibility of some army leaders infiltrated by liberal unionists, antistate forces, and those opposed to neutrality."
Dodon's comments come after the country's military sent 57 soldiers to join U.S.-led military drills in Ukraine. The Rapid Trident exercises, held each year since 1996, run from September 8-23 and include 1,800 troops from 14 countries.
Interfax reported the Ukrainian Defense Ministry as saying that the 57 Moldovan troops arrived at the Yavoriv training center in the Lviv region of Ukraine late on September 8 and they participated in preparations for the exercises.
Other countries participating are Bulgaria, Canada, Estonia, Italy, Georgia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
Dodon on September 5 had rejected a request by the Defense Ministry to send the troops to the drills, saying, "We do not accept involvement by Moldovan servicemen in military exercises beyond the national borders."
Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, is divided between forces supporting Dodon and those backing the government, which is pushing for closer ties with the European Union and the United States.
During recent Independence Day celebrations, Dodon decorated several people for contributing to closer ties with Russia, while Prime Minister Pavel Filip reiterated his government's determination to pursue closer ties with the EU in a speech to parliament.
In his September 8 statement, Dodon stressed what he called his country's neutrality. "What NATO drills can we talk about if Moldova is a neutral country?" he said.
"For the first time, the government is giving orders to the armed forces in defiance of the orders of the commander in chief. That is unacceptable," he added.
"In a presidential country, the prime minister would be gone," he said. "We'll get to that, nothing is forgotten."
Dodon said he wanted Galbura removed from as defense minister and punishment for any others responsible for the deployment for "violating the order of the supreme commander of the armed forces."
Dodon told a news conference he had signed "an executive order" as commander in chief that "starting today, no serviceman can go abroad without prior agreement of the president of the country."
"This order will be brought to the attention of every soldier," he added.
"I also demand the resignation of the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and an official investigation [into the matter] so that those who violated the order...will receive sanctions, either in regard to their military rank or other means, depending on their position," Dodon said.