On the evening of Friday, June 30, an individual arriving at Chișinău International Airport on a flight from Istanbul was stopped and taken to one side for questioning. He apparently became very agitated during this initial discussion and authorities decided to deport him.
While being escorted to a secure area prior to returning him to Turkey, the country of departure, the man seized a handgun from the border guard escorting him and shot him dead. He then turned his gun on a security guard who tried to intervene, shot and seriously wounded him; the security guard later died of his injuries.
The gunman then barricaded himself into a room but was apprehended and severely wounded when members of Moldova’s Fulger special forces battalion stormed the room, shooting the suspect several times. A passenger who was taken hostage by the gunman is believed to have been injured in the operation to arrest the killer.
Initial reports suggested the man was Russian but it was later confirmed he was a 43-year-old Tajik, whom some media outlets claimed was a holder of a Russian passport. Rumors immediately began to circulate that the individual was a military member of the Wagner PMC.
Moldova has been on alert ever since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In February 2023, Moldova’s President, Maia Sandu, accused Russia of plotting to use foreign “saboteurs” to overthrow her pro-European Union government. This was based on intelligence acquired by Ukrainian security services. As a result, security precautions have been raised at all entry points, including at the airport. It was because of this that the Fulger special forces team was already on-site and reacted so quickly
The radio Moldova website reports that as many as 150 foreign citizens a week have been refused entry to the country at the airport and other entry points. This has included sports teams from Montenegro and Serbia. In March, one of those turned back was a Russian citizen identified by Border Police as a member of the Wagner PMC.
“The measures taken, based on the risk analysis and the information obtained jointly with the national authorities, including through the exchange of information with international partners, allowed the detection… of a citizen who was identified as a possible representative of a private military company in the Russian Federation [Wagner]. The citizen in question was not authorized to cross the state border, being returned by air to the starting state,” the Border Police announced at the time.
Chișinău International Airport is Moldova’s main airport, located 13 kilometers southeast of the capital.
President Sandu issued a statement on Friday offering her and the government’s condolences to the families of those killed.
“Today, a serious incident took place at the airport, during which a foreign citizen, who was denied entry to the country by the authorities of the Republic of Moldova, fatally shot two people – a border guard and an airport security officer. Our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims. The loss of loved ones is a huge pain for families. This is a sad day for all of us.”
She said that state security forces were on high alert across the country.
Prime Minister Dorin Recean, who made a visit to the scene shortly after the incident, confirmed the two fatalities and the injury to the bystander.
“A 43-year-old Tajik citizen was denied entry to Moldova for security reasons. While escorting him to the ‘sterile’ zone for return, he shot a border guard and an airport security officer with a gun taken from a border police officer,” he said.
Moldova’s chief prosecutor, Ion Munteanu, said the shooting was being examined as a terrorist act, although there was currently no evidence he was linked to any armed group. Yet the rumors that the killer belonged to Wagner continued in both Molodvan mainstream and social media platforms.
Moldova became a candidate for EU membership last summer. At the same time tensions between Chișinău and the pro-Moscow breakaway region of Transnistria, where some 1,500 Russian soldiers are stationed, has been exacerbated by the war in neighboring Ukraine.
No Moldovan spokesperson was able or willing to confirm whether or not the gunman had affiliation with Wagner.
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