Moldova’s Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita spoke exclusively to CNN in the capital city Chisinau on Sunday about how Moldova is responding to the influx of Ukrainian refugees and the escalating conflict in neighboring Ukraine.
“We strongly condemn this military attack on Ukraine. And we have called for peace ever since the beginning of the war. We are seeing an extraordinary humanitarian crisis. Already 230,000 people have crossed the Moldovan border from Ukraine. And about 120,000 have chosen to stay now,” Gavrilita said during the interview.
“We are also seeing a lot of families and children move from Ukraine. So every eighth child in Moldova is now a refugee …. at least three fourths of the refugees are staying with families … we are at capacity. The flow of refugees is higher and faster than even predictions indicated.”
When asked about the Moldovan government closing its airspace on the first day of the Russian invasion, Gavrilita said the decision was made “to protect civilian airspace,” adding “we received a request that indicated there may be military operations in the vicinity of Moldovan airspace. In order to ensure civilian flights are not under risk, we have taken the decision to close the airspace. We have exceptions to this for humanitarian flights and for flights of refugees out of the country.”
Gavrilita said a recent visit from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken showed “a strong sign of support” to the Moldovan government’s response to the influx of refugees.
The prime minister also spoke about Russian troops currently in the separatist region of the country’s eastern Ukrainian border.
“We have called continuously for the withdrawal of the troops. And we have a negotiating format with the separatist region. We are currently seeing no signs of involvement in the military conflict. And we expect this to remain so,” Gavrilita said.
“Moldova is a neutral state. Its military neutrality is enshrined in the constitution and we expect everyone to respect this status.”
Gavrilita also shared her thoughts about the Russian people.
“I feel for the Russian people as well because they will also be suffering from the consequences of the war,” she said. “And I hope they seek truthful information and choose to oppose this war.
“This conflict is not only affecting Ukraine and neighboring countries. It’s also affecting the whole world. We plead for diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the conflict.”