Romania says Russian missile flew over Moldova just outside NATO airspace
The Washington Post February 10, 2023
KYIV, Ukraine - A Russian missile fired at Ukraine crossed over Moldova on Friday morning and came within 22 miles of the border of Romania, a NATO member, prompting the Romanians to scramble two fighter jets that were on an exercise under NATO command, the Romanian Defense Ministry said.
The incident was part of the latest Russian barrage of strikes, and Ukraine’s top general, Valery Zaluzhny, had initially charged that two Kalibr missiles had violated Romanian airspace - a potentially inflammatory move that could have put pressure on NATO to respond.
In a telegram post, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky - who was completing a visit this week to European capitals, including a speech before the European Parliament - also claimed that “several Russian missiles flew through the airspace of Moldova and Romania,” which was “a challenge to NATO, collective security.”
“This is terror that can and must be stopped. Stopped by the world,” Zelensky wrote.
However, the Romanian Defense Ministry said that it had detected “an aerial target launched from the Black Sea from a ship of the Russian Federation, near the Crimean Peninsula, most likely a cruise missile,” which flew over Ukrainian territory, then crossed into Moldova.
The missile “reentered the Ukrainian airspace without intersecting, at any time, the airspace of Romania,” the defense ministry said.
“The closest point of the target’s trajectory to Romania’s airspace was recorded by the radar systems approximately 35 kilometers north-east of the border,” the ministry said, adding that at 10:38 a.m. two MiG-21 Lancer fighter jets “were redirected to the Northern area of Romania to supplement the reaction options.”
“After about two minutes the situation was clarified,” the ministry said in its statement, “and the two aircraft resumed their original mission.”
Throughout the war, NATO countries have supplied Ukraine with huge stocks of weapons, intelligence and economic support but have assiduously sought to avoid any indication of a direct conflict with Russia.
In a statement posted to his Telegram channel, Zaluzhny said that “at 10:18 a.m., two Russian Kalibr cruise missiles crossed the state border of Ukraine with the Republic of Moldova. At approximately 10:33 a.m., these missiles crossed Romanian airspace. After that, they again entered the airspace of Ukraine at the crossing point of the borders of the three states.”
While Romania denied that account, Moldovan officials confirmed the violation of their airspace.
In response, Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu ordered “the urgent summoning” of Russia’s ambassador in Chisinau, Oleg Vasnetsov, “to indicate the unacceptable violation of our airspace . . . by a Russian missile today,” a statement by the ministry said.
“We strongly reject the recent unfriendly actions and statements in relation to the Republic of Moldova, a fact considered absolutely unacceptable by our people,” ministry spokesman Daniel Voda said. “We call on the Russian Federation to stop the military aggression against the neighboring country which is causing numerous loss of human lives and material destruction.”
Asked about the Ukrainian allegation, a spokeswoman for NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg referred to the Romanian Defense Ministry’s statement.
Friday’s bombardment was the latest salvo in Russia’s campaign to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure - a four-month-old effort that aims to decimate the country’s economy and weaken the population’s will to fight by denying them light and heat during the winter. The attacks also seemed to be coordinated with Russia’s anticipated offensive in eastern Ukraine, which officials said has begun in the last few days, targeting key eastern cities.
Zaluzhny posted on Telegram that Kremlin forces launched 71 cruise missiles, seven self-destructing drones and around 35 surface-to-air missiles from S-300 rocket systems in the morning hours. Ukrainian air defenses shot down 61 cruise missiles and five drones, Zaluzhny said.
The attack struck targets across the country, Ukrainian officials said. Air raid alerts sounded out regularly throughout the night and during the day on Friday, and numerous explosions could be heard in the capital and the surrounding suburbs.
Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko wrote on Telegram that the capital’s antiaircraft systems shot down 10 missiles, but Russians still managed to damage the electrical grid. There were no casualties, however, Klitschko said.
Heavy shelling in the eastern city of Kharkiv left critical infrastructure badly damaged and eight people injured, the regional head Oleh Synyehuvbov said on Ukrainian television. About 150,000 people were left without electricity.
Anatolii Kurtiev, secretary of the city council in the eastern city of Zaporizhzhia - where Russian forces are concentrating part of their offensive - said that the city was struck by 17 missiles in one hour.
“This is the largest number since the beginning of the full-scale invasion,” he wrote on Telegram. “This is all that this army of scum is capable of - shelling a sleeping city and hitting our infrastructure.” The number of victims and extent of the damage was still being clarified, he said.
State energy provider Ukrenergo said that the attacks “hit several objects of high-voltage infrastructure in the eastern, western, southern regions, which led to power outages in some areas.” Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said in a Facebook post that both thermal and hydrogeneration plants were struck. “The most difficult situation is in Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv and Khmelnytskyi regions,” Halushchenko wrote.
On the front lines in eastern Ukraine, Russian forces have launched their full-scale offensive, officials said. Serhiy Haidai, head of the regional administration in the eastern region of Luhansk, said in a television broadcast that the number of daily attacks in his region “has increased” and is focusing partly on the key city of Kreminna. “A certain intensification has already begun,” Haidai said.
Elsewhere, Kremlin troops have “made tactical gains” in fighting in the eastern Donetsk region, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in its daily update. Forces belonging to the Russian private military organization Wagner Group have moved into the northern outskirts of the city of Bakhmut, the ministry said.
To the south, it added, Russian forces have advanced to the western edge of the town of Vuhledar. However, they also suffered “heavy casualties” and “likely fled and abandoned at least 30 mostly intact armored vehicles in a single incident after a failed assault,” the ministry said. The Washington Post could not independently confirm this information.