Tensions between Russia and Moldova have gone from bad to verse thanks to the flamboyant words of Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
Last week, Mr Rogozin was thwarted in a planned visit to Moldova. His plane was unexpectedly denied passage by Hungary and Romania, and forced to land in Minsk instead.
Mr Rogozin has been banned from travelling to the European Union since March 2014 over his backing of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
He singled out Romanian authorities in an outburst on Twitter, saying the decision had “endangered the lives of passengers”.
“Wait for our response,” he added.
This triggered a wave of online ridicule from many Russian social media users.
One Twitter user jokingly speculated their country would “ban films and burn books about Count Dracula”.
Mr Rogozin had not been particularly welcome in Moldova anyway.
Relations between Chisinau and Moscow have been tense since Moldova declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, and particularly after pro-Russian forces in the Trans-Dniester region unilaterally declared independence from Moldova.
Russian troops currently have a peacekeeping mission in the breakaway region and Mr Rogozin had been invited by its pro-Russian leader Igor Dodon to mark the 25th anniversary of their mission there.
The pro-European government in Chisinau had warned him against arriving on a Russian Air Force plane.
Having joked that he could travel by bicycle, Mr Rogozin later acquiesced and took a commercial flight – which was delayed by Moldovan authorities for two hours without any explanation.
Border authorities at Chisinau airport also stopped ten Russian entertainers on their way to the Dniester region for a “charity gala-concert”.
Dniester leaders accused Moldova of trying make a farce out of “an important holiday for every Dniester resident”.
Mr Rogozin appeared to agree. In addition to his remark on Twitter, he also posted a poem on Facebook, in apparent response to these trials.
“People of low social morals/ Who love hanging around in Europe/ Have gone on a rampage” and “Heroes of desperate behind-the-scenes infighting/ Sombre knights with a paper dagger/ They attacked Russian artists like a swarm” were among some of the lines.
Although he later deleted it, the poem also drew much mockery from Russians.
In recent months other diplomatic rows have flared between Moscow and Moldova’s pro-European government.
Chisinau banned its officials from travelling to Russia after several Moldovan investigators and envoys complained of being harassed by Moscow airport security during an inquiry into a money laundering network that used Moldovan banks.
The Moldovan government also expelled five Russian diplomats and declared them personae non-grata.
Russia responded in kind, by expelling five Moldovan diplomats, despite efforts by the Moldovan president to ease tensions
It has also said it is preparing targeted sanctions against those responsible for banning Mr Rogozin’s aircraft from transiting in Romanian airspace and preventing his visit to Moldova.
Reporting by Yaroslava Kiryukhina
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