NARRATIVE: Russians living abroad are discriminated against and tolerance in Western democracies is merely a myth.
BACKGROUND: The most vulnerable country in this situation is the Republic of Moldova, a small and poor country, where society is divided on ethnic, linguistic and foreign policy criteria. Moldova is also confronted with a separatist conflict in the east, the entire region being under Moscow’s de facto control. Russia also maintains a sizable military force in Transnistria, officially tasked with guarding a Soviet-era weapons and munitions depot.
The Republic of Moldova is regarded as a possible next target for Russia after Ukraine, and the message of the Russian embassy is designed to justify the expansion of the “denazification operation”, legal expert and former Constitutional Court president claims. Other experts have also interpreted the message of the Russian diplomacy as a provocation.
Finnish expert Jussi Lassila told the local media that, considering Russia has lost the information war to Ukraine and the list of its foreign partners is diminishing, it is trying to justify the war to those citizens who have left Russia, despite assuming that many of them oppose the war.
PURPOSE: A large number of complaints (verified or unverified) might be invoked by Moscow in order to justify possible actions aimed at defending Russian citizens. The narrative is meant to intimidate countries where such calls have been launched, in order to prevent them from rallying the West’s regime of sanctions and criticism against Russia. In the case of the Republic of Moldova and/or Finland, the requests could serve as reasons to pressure the authorities to grant additional rights to Russian minorities. The message is also meant to tell Russians that Moscow remains strong and capable of defending them, but also that if they choose to leave the country, once they get abroad they risk facing marginalization.
WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: The violation of the rights of Russians and the Russian-speaking minority in the Republic of Moldova is a constant theme disseminated by Moscow officials, the Russian media, but also certain Moldovan politicians. Russians account for approximately 4% of the population of the Republic of Moldova (the figure doesn’t factor in the Russian-speaking population of Transnistria), while 20% of the total population represents Russian-speaking nationalities. Russian is the language of interethnic communication and can be studied in schools. Approximately 20% of schools in the Republic of Moldova have Russian-speaking and mixed curricula.
In turn, Romania and Finland are recognized for their observance of the rights of national minorities.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: Due to the Russian invasion in Ukraine, public opinion in a number of countries has become increasingly critical of Russians. However, such attitudes primarily target Russian authorities and are motivated by the war, having no ethnic, linguistic or religious underpinnings.
OFFICIAL REACTIONS: No cases of discrimination based on ethnic criteria have been reported in the Republic of Moldova, and the message of the Russian Embassy does not contribute to preserving social order, Daniel Vodă, the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration in Chișinău, reacted to the Russian Embassy’s message. “This post does little to preserve order in our society, and we call on our partners to refrain from such gestures and to display a better understanding of the situation in our country.
We would like to point out that Moldova guarantees all the rights of its citizens and represents a regional model of peaceful coexistence and safety for all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic background.
In this context, we would like to inform that no cases of discrimination have been reported, particularly in terms of ethnicity. The Republic of Moldova is guided by robust European mechanisms designed to prevent discrimination”, Daniel Vodă wrote.
The president of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, conveyed a similar message during a press briefing.