Russia is intensifying its hybrid war against Moldova. Chisinau responds with the help of the West

A woman holding a placard depicting (L-R) Adolf Hitler, Russian President Putin and Joseph Stalin protests in front of the Russian Embassy in Chisinau, during Russia presidential elections, in Moldova, 17 March 2024.
© EPA-EFE/DUMITRU DORU   |   A woman holding a placard depicting (L-R) Adolf Hitler, Russian President Putin and Joseph Stalin protests in front of the Russian Embassy in Chisinau, during Russia presidential elections, in Moldova, 17 March 2024.

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Moscow is hosting the opposition led by the criminal Ilan Shor and accuses Chisinau of Nazism, as it did with Ukraine. Moldova responds through security agreements with the West, from which it gets political and financial support.

The tools used by Moscow in its hybrid war against Moldova: Ilan Shor and the Pobeda bloc, accusations of Nazism similar to those that preceded the invasion of Ukraine

On June 9, while Europe’s eyes were on the European Parliament elections, a congress was organized in Moscow - the second in less than two months – by part of the Republic of Moldova’s "opposition": the pro-Russian bloc "Victory-Pobeda", led by the fugitive oligarch Ilan Shor.

 The press in Moscow wrote  that the congress addressed issues related to the presidential elections in the Republic of Moldova and the campaign for the pro-European referendum, both scheduled for October. Ilan Shor stated  that the "Victory-Pobeda" bloc (which, by the way, is not registered in the Republic of Moldova) would run with a single candidate in the presidential election in the fall. It seems, however, that this single candidate was not identified at the congress.

Announced with much fanfare by Shor, the congress went almost unnoticed even in the media space of the Republic of Moldova, where the media was busy covering the European Parliament elections, with hundreds of thousands of Moldovans, who also have European citizenships (predominantly Romanian), going to the polls to cast their vote. 

What is relevant is that the Pobeda bloc held its congress in Moscow. Political analysts have repeatedly noted that Ilan Shor, who fled to escape prison after participating in the stealing of a billion dollars from the banking system of the Republic of Moldova, is being used by the Russian secret services to destabilize the political situation in Chisinau on the eve of the presidential elections and the referendum on EU integration. The money for Shor's actions is provided by Moscow.

Supporting the pro-Russian parties is not, however, the only component of the cold war waged by the Russian Federation against the Republic of Moldova. Another component, perhaps the most important, is the informational one.

With regard to this, as well, Russia’s attacks on the current pro-European power in Chisinau have become more numerous and more aggressive lately. An eloquent example is the statements made in early May by the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, who compared the policy of the Chisinau authorities to what she called “experiments of the third Reich”  .  Maria Zaharova made this comparison referring to the fact that the Chisinau authorities excluded from the entire legislation the term "Moldovan language", which they replaced with "Romanian language" which is also the state language in the Republic of Moldova.

“As far as [Maia] Sandu is concerned, I think this is comparable to the experiments of the Third Reich. Only then and there did they experiment in this way with people's nationality, with their language", said Maria Zakharova who, at the same time, deplored the fact that in the Republic of Moldova "Moldovans" were deprived of the right to speak the "Moldovan language" - a reference to the Soviet propaganda fabrication, also taken over by the Russian propaganda, regarding the existence of the Moldovan language and ethnicity, distinct from the Romanian language and ethnicity.

The statement of the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry regarding the "Third Reich" is reminiscent of the false narratives promoted before and after the attack on Ukraine by Russian officials, led by Vladimir Putin, according to which Kyiv is at Nazi power.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Chisinau has denounced the statements regarding the language and described Maria Zakharova's references to Nazism as a  “hallucinatory delusion” . Political commentator Nicolae Negru belives, however, that the Russian official’s statements must be taken seriously.

"However hallucinatory it may seem, Maria Zakharova's reference to the <> is not accidental, it is not delirium, but the expression of a cynical, shameless and rogue strategy that Russia pursues with a persistence worthy of a better cause. From <> agitating the Moldovanists, of the fifth column, to use them as a mass of manouver in its hybrid war, Moscow is moving to the next stage in the direction of demonizing Maia Sandu and the PAS government, using the procedures and patterns applied in Ukraine : to create an international <> image for the Republic of Moldova", writes Nicolae Negru.

In his opinion, "Moscow knows very well that <> is the creation of Russian imperial (Soviet) propaganda, that Romanian is spoken in the Pruto-Dniester space, it is aware of the opinions of linguists, both domestic and foreign, the resolutions of the Academy, of Ion Druță's remark that he wrote his works in Romanian; it is aware also that after the perestroika and gaining its independence, Moldova’s leaving the Moldovenist circle built through terror and ethno-linguistic engineering was inevitable."

"But as with the Ukrainians, imperial reflexes urge it to try and crush ('break over the knees' as a Russian propagandist put it referring to the Ukrainians) our will. After Ukraine, Moscow is actually announcing the preparation for a new <> of the Republic of Moldova", Nicolae Negru believes.

Chisinau is trying to strengthen its security with the support of the West

Against the background of this hybrid war waged by the Russian Federation against the Republic of Moldova, Chisinau is trying to strengthen its security in all areas, including the informational, cybernetic, energy, and also the military one.

On March 7, the Republic of Moldova signed a defense cooperation agreement with France. It is part of the process of modernization and reform of the national army, which accelerated with the start of the war in Ukraine,  political analyst Ion Tabarta stressed at the time.  

The document covers important areas including defense policy, participation in international missions and operations, airspace control and management, military information and telecommunications technology.

Following the same logic, on May 21, the Republic of Moldova signed  a Partnership in the field of Security and Defense with the EU. This document provides support for building resilience, countering disinformation, cyber security, strengthening the defense sector, crisis management and integrated border management.

It is the first document of this kind that the EU signs with any state outside the community space.

Shortly after the signing of the Security Partnership with the EU, on May 29, the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, also visited Chisinau.

Antony Blinken announced in Chisinau  a new assistance package for the Republic of Moldova, worth 50 million euros, intended to strengthen democracy in the face of Russian threats, as well as investments of about 85 million dollars in the energy sector.

Antony Blinken stated that the aid was intended to reduce the dependence of the Republic of Moldova on Russian energy resources and contribute to increasing the resilience of state institutions.

T”hat in turn will bolster the ability of Moldovans to resist Russian interference, to hold free and fair elections, to continue down the path to the European Union and Western integration, to create more economic opportunity. We’re partnering closely to support economic and energy security.  The Russian attacks on the Ukrainian energy grid have exacerbated Moldova’s own energy challenges – raising electricity prices, hurting business and harming consumers.  The partnership that we have to reduce Moldova’s dependence on Russian energy, to enhance connectivity with Europe”, stated Blinken, who also condemned Moscow's interference in the democratic processes in the Republic of Moldova, as well as the Russian Federation's war of aggression in Ukraine.

Immediately after Blinken, the German Minister of Defense, Boris Pistorius, also travelled to Chisinau, where he announced that  Berlin would deliver 14 more Pirahna armored vehicles  to Moldova.  Pistorius stated that Germany would continue to support the European integration of the Republic of Moldova and strengthen its defense capabilities against attempts to destabilize the state, coordinated from Moscow.

Just a few days after these visits, on June 4, the head of the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office in Chisinau, Veronica Dragălin, announced the unraveling, in partnership with the French police and with the support of the FBI, of an international network that was illegally offering asylum or refugee status to some people, including from Russia and China, wanted by Interpol. Former and current high-ranking officials are being investigated in this case, including the head of the Interpol Office in the Republic of Moldova, Viorel Țentiu,  who is now in custody.

A day later,  an investigation by journalists from the independent Russian publication The Insider  appeared, in which it was stated that the former head of the army of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Gorgan, would have been an agent of the Russian military intelligence service, better known as the GRU . The Intelligence and Security Service in Chisinau confirmed these accusations.

After one more day, on June 6, the Facebook accounts of Ilan Shor, as well as of several politicians affiliated with him, were blocked.

All these events, which, at first glance, are not related to each other, still seem to be the result of Chisinau's cooperation with Western partners who are trying to help the Republic of Moldova clean its institutions of people who act in the interests of Russia, even indirectly, through acts of corruption, which ultimately weaken the state and make it vulnerable to Moscow.

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