Officials in Moldova's breakaway Transnistria blame Ukrainian drone strike after military site blast

A drone strike at a military installation in Moldova’s breakaway republic of Transnistria on Sunday destroyed a helicopter and ignited a fire, authorities in the pro-Russia region said.

The area’s pro-Russia officials blamed the strike on Ukraine.

Moldova’s Bureau for Reintegration Policies said in a statement that after examining video footage, they “do not confirm any attack” on Transnistria and called it “an attempt to cause fear and panic in the region.”

It added that the military equipment destroyed in the footage, which appeared across social media, “has not worked for several years,” and that the authorities in Moldova's capital, Chisinau, were in contact with Ukraine.

Russia bases about 1,500 troops in Transnistria, nominally as peacekeepers, guarding huge Soviet-era weapons and ammunition stockpiles at the military depot in Cobasna. The base hit by the drone on Sunday was in Tiraspol, the region's capital, and it wasn't immediately clear if any Russian troops were at the site.

The attack comes weeks after officials in Transnistria appealed to Moscow for protection as tensions escalated with Moldova's pro-Western government.

Moldova, a candidate to join the European Union, imposed new customs duties on Jan. 1 on imports to and exports from Transnistria, which borders Ukraine. Transnistria isn’t recognized by any U.N. member countries, including Russia, which maintains close ties to the region.

Late last month, members of the Transnistrian congress used a rare meeting in the regional capital, Tiraspol, to ask Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, to “implement measures for defending Transnistria amid increasing pressure from Moldova, given the fact that more than 220,000 Russian citizens reside in Transnistria.”

The explosion also coincided with the final day of Russia's tightly controlled three-day presidential election. A man was detained on Sunday after throwing two Molotov cocktails at the Russian Embassy in Chisinau, where voting for the election was taking place.