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Top US diplomat praises Moldova for taking in refugees from neighboring Ukraine

US Secretary of State Blinken visits Chisinau
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sits during a meeting with Moldova’s Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita at Government House in Chisinau, Moldova March 6, 2022. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS

March 6, 2022

By Simon Lewis

CHISINAU, Moldova (Reuters) – Washington’s top diplomat Antony Blinken on Sunday praised Moldovan leaders for welcoming refugees from Ukraine as he visited the country on a tour of Eastern Europe following the Russian invasion.

More than 230,000 people have entered Moldova from Ukraine since the start of the war on February 24, and 120,000 of them have remained in the country, Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said at a meeting with Blinken in the capital Chisinau.

“For a small country like Moldova, that’s a very large number,” and Moldova will need help to cope with the influx, she said.

Blinken, the Biden administration’s secretary of state, said he admires Moldova’s generosity and hospitality in welcoming those fleeing the conflict, which the UN refugee agency said by Sunday could have prompted 1.5 million people to flee Ukraine.

The visit comes after Blinken visited NATO member Poland on Saturday as the alliance strengthened its eastern flank in response to the Russian attack. He will then visit the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Moldova, a former Soviet republic like its neighbor Ukraine, is not a NATO member but formally applied to join the European Union on Thursday. The move is likely to anger Moscow, which has an estimated 1,500 troops stationed in the breakaway region of Transnistria in eastern Moldova.

Blinken said Moldova is delivering a “strong and positive story” of an emerging democracy “at a moment when democracies have been moving backwards rather than forwards for a number of years.

Blinken also met Moldovan President Maia Sandu, a former World Bank economist who came to power in 2019 and won a larger mandate in July’s elections that promised closer ties with the West.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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Bobby Allyn

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