Moldova president accuses Russia of plotting to oust pro-EU government

Maia Sandu says plan revealed by Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been confirmed

Moldova’s president has accused Russia of plotting to overthrow the country’s pro-EU government through violent actions disguised as opposition protest.

Maia Sandu said authorities had confirmed an alleged Russian plot to destabilise her country that Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, had revealed last week.

Zelenskiy told EU leaders that Ukraine had intercepted a plan from Russian intelligence, having uncovered a document that showed “who, when and how was going to break the democracy of Moldova and establish control” over the country.

On Monday, days after the Moldovan government resigned, Sandu said local institutions had confirmed the plan, adding that it was not a new one.

The plan involved citizens of Russia, Montenegro, Belarus and Serbia entering Moldova to try to spark protests in an attempt to “change the legitimate government to an illegal government controlled by the Russian Federation”, she said.

“The Kremlin’s attempts to bring violence to Moldova will not work. Our main goal is the security of citizens and the state. Our goal is peace and public order in the country,” Sandu said.

“The purpose of these actions is to overturn the constitutional order, to change the legitimate power from Chișinău to an illegitimate one that would put our country at Russia’s disposal to stop the European integration process, but also so that Moldova can be used by Russia in its war against Ukraine.”

Moldova, a former Soviet Republic of 2.6 million people that borders Ukraine and Romania, a Nato and EU member state, is seeking to join the bloc and was awarded candidate status last June, a major achievement for its western-leaning president and government.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the tiny republic, one of Europe’s poorest countries, has had to contend with large numbers of refugees, soaring inflation, power cuts, and instability in the breakaway region of Transnistria, which is controlled by Russian separatists.

Russia denied last year wanting to intervene in Moldova, after authorities in Transnistria said they had been targeted by a series of attacks.

Sandu nominated her defence adviser, Dorin Recean, to become Moldova’s prime minister on Friday after the resignation of the previous government. A former minister responsible for information and communication technology, Recean said he intended to keep Moldova on its pro-EU path.

“The new government will have three priorities: order and discipline, a new life and economy, and peace and stability,” he said. “The new government will continue the implementation of Moldova’s strategic course, integration into the European Union.”

One of his tasks will be to manage the energy crisis, after steep price increases led to street protests last year during which demonstrators called for the government and president to resign.

Moldova has also suffered from power cuts after Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities, and has struggled to end its reliance on Russian gas.

The protests, organised by the party of the exiled opposition politician Ilan Shor, marked the most serious political challenge to Sandu since her landslide election win in 2020 on a pro-Europe and anti-corruption platform.

Chișinău has described these protests as part of a Kremlin-sponsored campaign to destabilise the government.

Days before her resignation, the former prime minister Natalia Gavrilița went to Brussels for talks with senior officials at Nato and the European Commission. Moldova was last month offered a proposed €145m in funding from Brussels to keep its economy going. The funding, a mix of grants and cheap loans, still has to be approved by EU member states and MEPs.

Tensions rose further last week when Moldova said its airspace had been violated by a Russian missile en route to Ukraine, and it summoned the Russian ambassador to protest.

Russia launched a volley of missiles on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure last week, causing power cuts for millions of people. At least 17 missiles hit the south-eastern city of Zaporizhzhia in one hour last Friday, in the heaviest attack since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, local officials said.

Romania said a Russian missile launched off a ship near Crimea crossed into Moldovan airspace before hitting Ukraine but did not enter Romanian airspace.

Zelenskiy described the missile attacks as “a challenge to Nato and collective security”.

Reuters contributed to this report


Jennifer Rankin and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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