NARRATIVE: Russia is a fair partner that observes the norms of international law and the decisions of the states in the region, unlike the West, which gets involved in those states’ internal affairs.
LOCAL CONTEXT/ ETHOS: The relations between Chisinau and Moscow have grown considerably colder after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, criticized by the pro-European authorities of the Republic of Moldova. Chisinau has not officially joined the international sanctions against Russia, but has provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine, allowed the transit of oil products and provided aid to Ukrainian refugees.
Over the last year, there have been several verbal exchanges between representatives of the Foreign Ministries of the two states, but also at the level of high-ranking officials, and recently the two countries have mutually expelled each other’s diplomats.
Moscow accuses Chisinau of being controlled by the West and making anti-Russian decisions, of trying to get closer to NATO, of violating the neutrality status, of violating the rights of the Russian-speaking minority. The Kremlin ended up criticizing Chisinau also because the Parliament decided (following a decision of the Constitutional Court in 2013) to change the name of the language from Moldovan to Romanian.
On the other hand, the authorities of the Republic of Moldova have repeatedly condemned Russia's interference in its internal affairs and attempts to destabilize the situation and for trying to establish a pro-Russian government in Chisinau using undemocratic means. The war started by Russia has had direct consequences for the Republic of Moldova: economically, by the increase in prices, primarily for energy resources imported from Russia (gas) and the destruction of transportation logistics, but also security-wise. Because of the missile attacks on the Ukrainian energy system, power outages have occurred several times in the Republic of Moldova. Several Russian missiles have flown through the country's airspace, and missile parts have fallen on its territory.
PURPOSE: To present Russia as a fair international partner, unlike the West, which interferes in the internal affairs of sovereign states (Republic of Moldova).
WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: Despite the statements made by Maria Zaharova, Moscow, through its actions, or the statements issued by some of its officials, has demonstrated direct or indirect involvement in the Republic of Moldova by supporting some pro-Russian politicians, trying to determine the foreign policy vector, including through energy blackmail and economic war, maintaining a Russian military contingent on the territory of the Republic of Moldova and supporting the separatist administration in Tiraspol, fueling the Transnistrian conflict, and thus hampering the country's development.
At a formal meeting in Brussels in February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that the Ukrainian secret services had intercepted a plan by Moscow to destabilize the situation in the Republic of Moldova. Later, the Intelligence and Security Service of the Republic of Moldova confirmed that it had detected such plans. Later, President Maia Sandu stated that the Russian plan involved para-military units of foreign fighters, in civilian clothes, which would have attacked state institutions and taken hostages, the actions being masked by the protests of the pro-Russian opposition, especially The Shor Party.
Moscow denied the accusations, but it would not be the first attempt to influence the political situation in Chisinau. For example, in the last presidential race, in 2020, Vladimir Putin openly supported Igor Dodon, who, however, lost the election.
The American sanctions imposed in October 2022 on several individuals and entities from Russia and the Republic of Moldova, including the Shor Party and its leader, the fugitive politician Ilan Shor, sentenced to 15 years in prison for participating in the large-scale bank robbery of 2014, is more reason to believe that Russia did get involved in the internal affairs of the Republic of Moldova. The list also included Russian businessmen and political strategists affiliated with some Moldovan politicians, including the former president, Igor Dodon. They are said to have tried to keep the Republic of Moldova in the sphere of Russian influence, getting involved in the parliamentary elections of 2021, and a year later, organizing protests aimed at overthrowing the pro-European government.
Since 2020, Rise Moldova has published a series of investigations that have revealed Igor Dodon’s strong connections with representatives of the Russian intelligence services , from which he also received money. The last in the series of articles, published in March 2023, refers to the document that the international press also wrote about, regarding a Russian plan to bring the Republic of Moldova under its umbrella by 2030.
However, political analysts and some politicians from Chisinau believe that Russia has always had levers of influence on the Republic of Moldova, which it has used in the more than 30 years of the country's independence. The main one is the secessionist conflict in the east of the country. Moscow would have always threatened Chisinau with the recognition of the separatist region, which it supported financially and politically. Moreover, Russia maintains a Soviet-era military depot in the region, guarded by a military contingent, despite the fact that the Republic of Moldova has repeatedly demanded their withdrawal and even Moscow pledged to that more than 20 years ago.
Moldova's dependence on Russian gas has been another influencing factor. The latest evidence of energy blackmail was recorded in the fall of 2022, when Russia did not increase deliveries, starting October, thus forcing Chisinau to resort to other more expensive and less secure solutions. However, the Republic of Moldova found solutions, so that it currently imports Russian gas only for the separatist region of Transnistria, wherefrom it gets its electricity. That gas is delivered free of charge to the separatist region, largely ensuring its economic support and its industry; however, the amounts are imputed to Chisinau, which over time has accumulated billions of dollars in debt to Russia, debts that represent an extra leverage for the latter.
Over the years, Moscow has also blackmailed the Republic of Moldova economically by threatening, or even acting, with bans on agricultural production in the Republic of Moldova. The last most important decision in this regard was taken in 2014, after the Republic of Moldova signed the Association Agreement with the EU. The result was that some of the Moldovan producers reoriented themselves towards the EU market or identified others, and the Republic of Moldova reduced its dependence on the Russian one.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: The relations between the Republic of Moldova and Russia have become hostile against the background of the war in Ukraine.