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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Moldova seeks answers as Putin’s plans exposed

Plans by Russia to draw Moldova into its sphere of influence were leaked after demonstrations in Chisinau, which the government described as Moscow’s latest move to foment the insurgency.

Yahoo News reported Tuesday that it had received a strategy document from Vladimir Putin’s government outlining Moscow’s plans to counter Western efforts to “interfere in Moldova’s internal affairs.”

Drafted in autumn 2021, ahead of Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the plans are reportedly aimed at negating NATO’s influence and preventing EU countries and Turkey from weakening Russia’s position in the former Soviet republic .

The plans call for Moldova to join the Moscow-led European Economic Union (EAEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

They also seek to “neutralize” any push by Chisinau to remove Russia’s military from the breakaway Transnistria region, which is internationally recognized as part of Moldova and whose border with Ukraine has raised concerns it could be the next staging ground for Putin’s regional ambitions .

Divided into three areas – military, humanitarian and economic – the plans envisage that by 2030 there will be “stable pro-Russian influence groups in Moldova’s political and economic elites”. David Kramer, a former State Department official, told Yahoo that the document “treats Moldova as a soft satellite.”

news week emailed the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.

Moldova has been rocked by anti-government protests all winter amid an energy crisis that followed a shift away from Russian gas.

Crowds gathering in the Moldovan capital on Sunday were described by Russian media as anti-government protesters, but dismissed by a spokesman for Moldovan President Maia Sandu as an attempt by Russia to “destabilize Moldova”.

Dionis Cenusa, a risk analyst at the Lithuania-based Center for East European Studies, said news week that the protests organized by the Moldovan opposition “are not strong enough to destabilize the whole country, let alone overthrow the constitutional authorities”.

First, the protests would need to involve 50,000 participants or more to cause real problems, and current numbers of between 3,000 and 10,000 can be contained by law enforcement.

“Second, to become a triggering event, the political regime must be deeply unpopular and a political crisis must occur,” he said.

In addition, Russian forces in Transnistria “should be able to move into the constitutionally controlled and highly deployed territory of Moldova.

“This aspect is fraught with uncertainty and difficult to assess,” he added.

Local authorities said Sunday’s protests were coordinated by pro-Russian oligarchs Vladimir Plahotniuc and Ilan Shor, who are wanted internationally over corruption allegations. Shor’s party holds six seats in Moldova’s 101-seat legislature.

In February, Sandu accused Moscow of plotting to overthrow her government by using military-trained saboteurs disguised as civilians.

Tensions were fueled last week by claims by the Transnistrian security services that they had foiled a terrorist attack planned by Ukrainian intelligence services against the population and senior officials.

Ukraine dismissed the claims as Russian “provocation” and Chisinau demanded evidence from authorities in the breakaway region, local media reported.

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