Officials in Romania reported sighting strange balloon-like objects traversing their skies on Feb. 14, shortly after neighboring Moldova temporarily shut down its airspace due to similar sightings. The incidents occurred around midday local time and come shortly after a number of objects, including a high-altitude Chinese surveillance balloon, were detected traversing over American airspace and were subsequently shot down.
Romania’s defense ministry said they had deployed two RoAF (Romanian Air Force) MiG-21 LanceR jets to an area located in the southeast of the country around 10 minutes after the unknown object was spotted in its airspace. The ministry stated that the object had “characteristics similar to a weather balloon” and was initially detected by radar systems in Romanian airspace at an altitude of about 11,000 meters (36,000 feet). The jets stayed in the area for 30 minutes but “did not confirm the presence of the aerial target, neither visually nor on the onboard radars,” and subsequently returned to base.
Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu told reporters at the U.N. headquarters in New York that there was no threat to Romanian airspace. Hours earlier, Moldova, which borders Romania and Ukraine, briefly closed its air space for undisclosed safety and security reasons. Air Moldova, the country’s national airline, announced the closure on Facebook at about 2 p.m. local time and said that the airspace had been reopened at around 3:17 p.m. local time. Moldova’s civil aviation authority later said the object resembled a “weather balloon” but noted that “given the weather conditions and the impossibility of monitoring and identifying the object as well as its flight path … the decision was taken to temporarily close the airspace.”
The incident in Moldova came just hours after Moldovan President Maia Sandu accused the Kremlin of planning to use foreign saboteurs to bring down her country’s leadership and prevent it from joining the European Union. Sandu told a news briefing that Russia also planned to use Moldova in its war against Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had said the previous week that his country had uncovered plans by the Russian secret service “for the destruction of Moldova.”
Russia on Tuesday dismissed the allegations made by Sandu and Zelenskyy, calling them “completely unfounded.” Washington said it was “deeply concerned” by reports of the alleged Russian plot to destabilize Moldova’s government but said it sees no direct military threat to Moldova at this time.
The sightings of the unidentified objects across Romania and Moldova come at a time of heightened tensions between the West and China following the detection of a Chinese spy balloon over America. China said it was a civilian meteorological balloon that had accidentally drifted off course but Washington says it was likely a sophisticated high-altitude spying vehicle conducting surveillance over sensitive U.S. military sights, including nuclear bases in Montana.