Almost every night, the Romanian village of Plauru, located on the border with Ukraine, is awakened by the sound of sirens. “When they scream, we know the drones are coming,” says a resident.
On this side of the Danube, the river which separates NATO member Romania from the country at war, we can see the Ukrainian port of Izmail, crucial for the grain trade and target of repeated Russian attacks.
And we often hear drones flying overhead. Fragments of devices “similar to those used by the Russian army” were also discovered last week in two places in the town, a few kilometers apart.
One of them left a large hole in the ground after burning a few trees in its fall, AFP journalists noted.
The hunt for debris is now daily in this region of southeastern Romania: new elements were found again on Wednesday, while Moscow struck the Izmail area during the night.
Costica Tanase, a 51-year-old farmer, eventually got used to it. It is often around 2 a.m. that he hears the sounds of war.
He fears that one day a drone will fall on his house. The presence of soldiers, recently deployed in the area, does not really reassure him. "What can they do? They don't have an air defense system," he whispers.
“The sound is louder than that of a plane,” confides 72-year-old resident Ion Giuvanovici, who himself went looking for remains in the surrounding area.
Despite the fear, they do not want to leave their house, their livestock.
The idea nevertheless crossed the mind of septuagenarian Gheorghe Puflea, worried when the windows of his home shake at night. “It shakes like an earthquake,” he testifies, hat screwed on his head among his chickens. “The calf is hiding between my legs, scared to death.”
Soon the forty souls who populate the village will be able to take refuge in two small air raid shelters, hastily built by the military this week to "protect the population".
Made of concrete, 9.6 m long, 2 m wide and 1.5 m high inside, they should be ready on Thursday, according to the Ministry of Defense.
An alert is also provided via a telephone alarm system "in the event of a risk of falling elements linked to the conflict".
Faced with this situation, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis protested to Moscow this weekend, condemning "strongly a violation of airspace which constitutes a threat to citizens."
He also spoke with the Secretary General of NATO. “Nothing indicates that there was an intention to strike NATO, but the attacks are destabilizing,” reacted Jens Stoltenberg on the X network (formerly Twitter).
Before the first debris was unearthed, Bucharest had “categorically” denied Kiev’s allegations that Russian explosive devices had fallen in this neighboring NATO country, which shares a 650 km border with Ukraine.
To the point that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba denounced Romania's "tendency to minimize certain events in order not to be drawn into a direct conflict."
It took the tenacity of the mayor of Plauru to achieve the discovery. In any case, this is the version provided by the person concerned: Tudor Cernega claims to have gone to the places identified by Internet users, to have found the elements sought then alerted the authorities.
“It’s not something you learn in the mayor’s manual,” he told AFP, between two phone calls to his municipal office.
In this isolated region, where road access is difficult and internet connection sporadic, residents often feel abandoned by the government.
But "all these problems" have placed the village in the spotlight, underlines the councilor, welcoming the measures taken although he considers them too "timid".
Finally, fortunately fragments were unearthed, he says. No one believed the residents, but "it turned out that we are really in danger."
13/09/2023 14:47:26 - Plauru (Romania) (AFP) - © 2023 AFP