Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
April 3, 2022
PRIME MINISTER NATALIA GAVRILITA: (Via interpreter) Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, dear representatives of the mass media, I have the special pleasure to welcome you here at the government premises, your visit being a strong signal of support on behalf of the U.S. as well as on behalf of the organizations under the United Nations umbrella.
From the very beginning, the Republic of Moldova did condemn very firmly the unjustified war launched by Russia against Ukraine, which represents a flagrant violation of international law. The Republic of Moldova, co-sponsored and voted in favor of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly condemning the aggression against Ukraine on March 2, 2022, and thus co-sponsored and voted in favor of the resolution on the humanitarian consequences of the aggression against Ukraine adopted on March 24. In the same sense, we co-sponsored the resolution on the situation with regard to the human rights in Ukraine after the aggression of Russian Federation adopted during the 49th session of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.
Through all the actions of the state and the support for the actions of the United Nations organizations that I just mentioned above, we are manifesting our strong support for the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a country – a friend and a neighbor – within the boundaries recognized internationally.
The war has created a humanitarian crisis of big proportion, which affected also our country and created a mass challenge for its capacity. From the very start of the war in Ukraine, over 390,000 people entered the territory of the Republic of Moldova. And today we are the home for 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, of which about 48,000 are minors, are children. We are firmly committed from now on to do our best in order to provide protection to those who are seeking refuge here in the Republic of Moldova.
The government is undertaking coordinated actions in regards to the management both of the transit flows as well as the refugee flow from Ukraine that decide to stay here. We are doing it, obviously, with the support of the international community as well as our European partners, and a very highly appreciated effort was undertaken by the citizens of the Republic of Moldova. Most of the refugees from Ukraine have been accepted in the houses or homes of the Moldovans. In my recent visit to the country, I’ve seen lots of placement centers – arranged by the economic operators, by NGOs, by local communities – for the families of refugees from Ukraine who have been provided food and compassion.
Solidarity is the word that describes best the spirit of the time. We have seen a cohesion, a social cohesion without any precedent here at home. We have seen how well the state institution can cooperate with the volunteers, the NGOs, as well as those from the private sector, the Moldovan diaspora, for the same cause: to help people who are running from the war.
Solidarity was seen also on behalf of the European countries, the international community, as well as on behalf of the U.S. The visit of the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Moldova, as well as his very strong messages of solidarity, have been appreciated as signals of the firm support of the U.S. for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the democratic path of the Republic of Moldova.
The same support we felt following the visit of the U.S. Congress representatives as well as during your visit, Your Excellency. We highly appreciate the support of the USA for the response of Moldova to the humanitarian crisis and refugee crisis by efforts of the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, as well as of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, where the U.S. is the biggest donor.
During the very productive discussions that we have had with Your Excellency, Mrs. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, we spoke about all the challenges faced by us during this period. We talked in particular about the refugee crisis management maintaining economic stability and political stability in the country, as well as our firm commitment to continue on the reforms and initiated since our government started its activity. The citizens of the Republic of Moldova have chosen a pro-European government to lead the country towards development and welfare, and no matter what major crises are hitting us, we will do all our best in order to stay firmly on the path of these changes. We trust the rule of law; we trust the human rights supremacy, common values in the free world we want to be part of.
We thank you very much for being a very trustful friend for over 30 years.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good afternoon, Prime Minister. Good afternoon, everyone. Let me just start by thanking you, Prime Minister, and all of the people of Moldova for welcoming me here today. The Prime Minister and I just had an excellent discussion, and we had an opportunity to engage on a number of issues important to both Moldova and the United States, including strengthening regional security and bolstering democratic institutions. But first and foremost, I was able to share the deep gratitude of the United States and the American people for Moldova’s efforts to welcome Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion.
Today, I was able to see firsthand the way your government and the Moldovan people have come together to embrace those – mostly women and children – who have been forced to leave behind everything they have and people they dearly love to flee to safety. You have welcomed them with open arms, and for this, your hospitality and generosity are now known around the world. I want you to know that, in all your efforts, you have a committed partner in the United States.
To this end, I am proud to announce today that the United States will provide an additional $50 million to help the Government of Moldova and its people cope with the effects of Russia’s brutal war. The United States is announcing this funding ahead of the Moldova Support Conference, taking place April 5th in Berlin, to help advance international support for Moldova’s resilience and reform agenda. This assistance is in addition to the more than $30 million we have provided Moldova for its humanitarian efforts, which ensures refugees have food to eat, clean water to drink, and all the services and health supplies they need. We will continue to ramp up this support in the days and weeks to come.
We know that this assistance will go far in your hands. Because today I had the privilege of meeting with some of the recipients of your hospitality, including a young woman who fled Kharkiv after her apartment was destroyed. She told me today that her daughter, who is only three years old, has started to smile again – and that’s because of what you have provided to her here in Moldova.
The stories of the refugees I’ve met here and of your efforts to support them are so important. And I look forward to bringing them back with me to share them with President Biden, the United Nations Security Council, and in all of my diplomatic engagements in New York.
And with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) And dear Prime Minister, Your Excellency, now we have the session of questions and answers. And the first question is to you, dear Prime Minister and Your Excellency. Mihaela Ursu from TVR, Moldova.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon. Attack of the Russian Federation on Odessa this morning has caused a new wave of refugees to the Republic of Moldova, and we know very well that the possibilities of the Republic of Moldova are limited. Can Chișinău count on new support from the international community? And Ms. Prime Minister, if you could speak specifically about what Moldova is lacking in managing the crisis of the refugees?
PRIME MINISTER GAVRILIȚA: (Via interpreter) Thank you for your question. Indeed, we have seen that the flow of refugees has gone down for a period, but we have always spoken of the need to make plans, to have plans, and have certain reserves for an eventual new wave of refugees. The most important thing that we are discussing with our partners in relation to the subsequent waves of refugees are the so-called green corridors that we have created at the beginning of March. And we have seen how it works when buses and trains are provided to the refugees from the border crossing point so that the refugees transit the territory of the Republic of Moldova and are welcomed to other European countries and the countries of the European Union.
And at the same time, we have discussed this issue with international organizations and organizations working under the United Nations umbrella to speed up the programs to provide support to the refugees already in our country and to the families which host these refugees. And we also have plans for a more efficient communication on the processes which the refugee centers, which are established by civil society organizations or by private entities, may apply for an authorization and may receive support from the international organizations or from the United States government.
Obviously, we plead for peace in the very first place. This region needs peace and stability to develop and to grow the well-being of the citizens to cope with economic crisis at the global level that had been there before the war, and we shall continue working with all stakeholders within the country and international organizations to be prepared for sadder scenarios.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And if I can just respond briefly, the purpose for my being here today is to reaffirm our support for Moldova, for your efforts in supporting refugees, and also to discuss with the Prime Minister and the government other ways the U.S. government can support their efforts to address the impact of Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Next question is to you, Your Excellency. Natalia Ginga from PROTV.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) How would you comment the fearful images from Bucha – the community Bucha – of the people who have been killed by the Russian army? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It’s hard to comment on what – those images that we have seen. But I will say that we have made clear that we will work with the international community, with the Ukrainians, to document atrocities and human rights violations that have been committed against the Ukrainian people, and to document the war crimes that we are seeing.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador, and Madam Prime Minister. Our next question comes from Reuters, Michelle Nichols.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you both for the press conference. Madam Prime Minister, (inaudible) that President Putin might extend his war in Ukraine to Moldova, and what would be your message to President Putin on that note? And what further help can you provide the Moldovan (inaudible)?
PRIME MINISTER GAVRILIȚA: (Via interpreter) Thank you for your question. As I have said, our message is a message of peace. We are a country with neutrality which is enshrined in the constitution, which is supported by the majority of our population, and we are expecting this neutrality to be respected by all the actors. And certainly there are risks related to the separatist region in the eastern part of the country, and we need to be vigilant. However, we see no specific plans so far for engaging Moldova in this conflict, and we count on the support of our partners, on the support of the United States of America and the support of European countries, to keep the stability of the situation and that a peaceful solution for this conflict is found.
As regards the specific support, we have a conference in Berlin where we shall discuss with a number of international and European partners the support which the Republic of Moldova needs right now. It’s obviously about the financial support, but also political support in managing security-related risks and in managing the migrant flows, the green corridors that I have mentioned a bit earlier, and also managing the economic and social consequences of the war in Ukraine. And here I made the extension of markets and extension of preferential trade opportunities for certain sectors in order to compensate for the loss of eastern markets, and here we also mean the liberalization of transport, especially in Europe, so that our transporters are able to find new routes, new ways of facilitating trade.
This is also about other support methods so that the economic effects of this crisis are as minimal as possible for the citizens of Moldova.
MODERATOR: And NPR’s Michel Martin.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, thank you. Given the tenor of the Russian assault on Ukraine, (inaudible) is Moldova prepared to receive this many people? (Inaudible.)
And also, Ambassador, what’s been the most meaningful part of your visit so far?
PRIME MINISTER GAVRILIȚA: (Via interpreter) Obviously, Moldova will make every effort to help the citizens which are fleeing the war. Moldova would make every effort to help women, children, elderly people that have found a refuge in Moldova. We are responsible actors in the international community, and we will definitely respect our international commitments to support the refugees. Obviously, we need support; we need support because the capacities of our country are limited. And it is particularly important to keep, to preserve the solidarity, unity, and social cohesion that I have been witnessing in the last weeks. We will definitely address these longer-term issues, issues related to integration, just as we have done so far. We have already taken decisions to offer the possibility to the children to integrate into the education system, to go to school. We offered the possibilities of employment, and last week, for instance, I visited a school where I have seen a cleaning personnel which have occupied the vacancies in that school. And we very much hope that these families would have the possibility to go back to their homes, the children go back to their normal lives in Ukraine.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have seen the images on TV of the bombed-out buildings, the burning buildings. But what we have not seen is that behind those destroyed buildings are destroyed lives and destroyed families. And I was able to come here and actually engage with people who have fled that destruction, who are trying to keep their lives together and keep their families together. And hearing their stories today was an extraordinary experience for me. It was very emotional. It was very sad. But at the same time, I saw the courage and the resilience of these women – and it was almost all women and children – who have come here under the circumstances that they have come under and not knowing, as you noted, whether they will be able to return to their homes.
And then secondly, it’s been extraordinary to see the hospitality of the Moldovan people. They have opened their hearts. They’ve opened their homes. They’ve opened their country, their borders, to their neighbor. And this has, I think, as I noted in my remarks, it’s being noted and seen around the world. But most importantly, I think the Ukrainian people will always be appreciative of what you’ve done for them.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our final question today comes from CNN’s Bianna Golodryga.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) in terms of intelligence along that front, too?
PRIME MINISTER GAVRILIȚA: (Via interpreter) We are exchanging information with all our partners in this regard. We are carefully watching and vigilantly watching what is happening in the Transnistrian region, and we have expressed our conclusions on the basis of the information that we have, including yesterday a number of actors in Ukraine have confirmed that there is a risk; however, there are no specific plans for preparation, as we have seen before the war broke out in Ukraine.
We continue to count on the efficient exchange of the information, and we count on the support of our international partners to maintain peace and stability in the Republic of Moldova and (inaudible) the possibility for peace in Ukraine.
QUESTION: Have you (inaudible) and intelligence on that front? And have you in fact seen an increase in Russian troops along Transnistria?
PRIME MINISTER GAVRILIȚA: (Via interpreter) The Russian troops have been in the Republic of Moldova since 30 years, and this has been consistently mentioned at all international fora that we have called for the withdrawal of these troops. There had been decisions of the international fora in this regard.
As regards the exchange of information, it happens between the specialized institutions of the state, and we shall continue to count on the openness with regard to the exchange of information that would ensure the security of Moldovan citizens.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) follow-up. Have you seen – I know – we all know that there have been troops along – 1,500 troops along Transnistria, but have we seen an increase in troops?
PRIME MINISTER GAVRILIȚA: (Via interpreter) As I have said, we have seen no signs of increasing the military contingent or any signs to plan to increase the contingent or any signs that would make us conclude that there are plans to escalate the conflict in Moldova.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you so much.