SIGHISOARA, Romania (AP) — Moldova received about 600 million euros in pledges at a donors conference Friday, an official said, to help the tiny country overcome rising inflation and the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

More than 500,000 refugees have fled to Moldova, which borders Ukraine, since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24. The situation has put a huge strain on resources in Europe’s poorest country, which is looking to forge closer ties with the West.

Moldova is also fully dependent on Russian gas supplies, with prices hiking four-fold in the last year, and is now contending with skyrocketing inflation.

The Moldova Support Platform donor meeting Friday was held in Romania’s capital, Bucharest, and was co-chaired by Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu, German counterpart Annalena Baerbock, and French secretary of state for development Chrysoula Zacharopoulou. Delegates from the Group of Seven and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also attended the event.

“We may not have the power to stop the war in Ukraine today or tomorrow, due to Russia‘s brutality,” Baerbock wrote online after the event. “But we do have the means to help a democratic country to prevent it from being crushed by the effects of this war.”

The initiative, which was launched in Berlin in early April, aims to help Moldova, a former Soviet republic with a population of about 2.6 million, deal with the fallout of Russia’s war in Ukraine and offer support from partners on its reform path as it aims to one day to obtain full membership in the 27-nation European Union.

After the meeting, Aurescu told a news conference that around 600 million euros “in various forms” were raised.

“We put the needs next to the problems, and we managed to put the resources next to the needs,” he said.

On June 23, the EU granted Moldova candidate status, with full bloc membership conditional on a series of reforms in areas such as tackling corruption, organized crime and strengthening the rule of law. It will likely take many years for the non-NATO nation to meet such standards.

Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Nicu Popescu told The Associated Press by phone on Friday that the support platform can “help Moldova transform.”

“Russia’s war in Ukraine had a huge and tragic impact on a lot of countries … (but) given Moldova’s geography, Moldova is probably the most impacted country after Ukraine,” he said. “There is an increased sense of insecurity that is affecting every single European — but is even more dramatic in Moldova.”

In April, tensions in Moldova soared after a series of explosions in Transnistria — a Russia-backed separatist region of Moldova where Russia bases about 1,500 troops — raised fears that it could get dragged into the war. Transnistria has a population of about 470,000 and has been under the control of separatist authorities since a civil war in 1992.

“Our population for years and years has strongly believed that Moldova’s future is in the European Union,” Popescu said. “Now Moldova has this historic chance to actually have a clear track of joining.”

——

Cristian Jardan reported from Chisinau, Moldova.