The media and some political theorists in Russia have begun to openly urge Moscow authorities to sanction the Republic of Moldova for its recent “oversights”, such as banning the symbols “Z”, “V”, directly associated with the Russian operations in Ukraine, and in particular the ribbon of Saint George, considered a symbol of the Russian army. Even if Moscow’s assault on Ukraine seems to have ground to a halt for the time being (with many of its naval forces also having sunk), Chișinău’s decisions are very audacious against the current internal and external backdrop, and may entail significant political and economic costs.
Pro-Kremlin media wants Odessa to be captured also with a view to attacking the Republic of Moldova
Kremlin-linked media outlets have started to almost overtly call for the Republic of Moldova to be punished. After Moldova banned symbols associated with the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, and Chișinău authorities said on a number of occasions they are ready to completely renounce imports of Russian gas, despite the serious economic and social costs, the Russian media published a series of articles criticizing Moldova, of which some are actually encouraging a military intervention in this country.
“Here’s another argument for pressing on all the way to Odessa: the Republic of Moldova is seeing an increasing number of protests against Maia Sandu’s Russophobic policies”, the pro-Kremlin portal politnavigator.net headlines. The article speaks about protest actions in the Republic of Moldova against banning the symbols associated with the Russian military aggression, particularly the ribbon of Saint George. The publication makes the forced assumption that there is actually an organized resistance, as well as guerilla forces that are painting the forbidden symbols on walls and roads. Finally, the article quotes an obscure political theorist from Kaliningrad, Alexander Nosovich, who suggested on his Telegram account that Russia should come defend its followers against Chișinău authorities.
“There are actions in the Republic of Moldova that show real support for Russia, for the ribbon of Saint George, for the celebration of victory day. It’s one further argument in favor of conquering Odessa. Otherwise, the lives of hundreds of thousands of pro-Russian Moldovans will become a living hell”, Politnavigator quotes Nosovich.
A similar message was conveyed by Russian political expert Marat Bashirov, this time in an article that speaks about Chișinău’s intentions of eliminating its reliance on Russian energy imports. “Moldova is again plotting against Gazprom. Odessa must be taken”, politnavigator writes. The article discusses the declarations of deputy prime minister Andrei Spânu, who said no agreement has yet been reached with Gazprom over the 700-million-Euro debt the Russian energy giant wants Chișinău to settle before May 1. Whereas Gazprom has threatened to cut supplies to Moldova, Chișinău is ready to purchase gas from other sources, albeit at higher costs. Under these circumstances, the breakaway region of Transnistria, which has never paid a cent for its gas imports, will be forced to purchase natural gas at selling prices.
“The conclusion is: it’s time Odessa was captured. We will also secure Transnistria, and Gazprom will receive its payments more easily”, Bashirov pointed out.
In turn, rubaltic.ru writes that a denazification campaign similar to the one in Ukraine would be necessary in the Republic of Moldova as well. The publication writes about the ban on the symbols promoting the war and exaggerates the manner in which Victory Day in the Second World War (marked on May 9, much like in other countries from the former USSR) is celebrated in the Republic of Moldova.
“What the head of state and the ruling party are doing right now is a clear signal that denazification is needed beyond Ukraine”, the article concludes.
Moscow wants to intimidate Chișinău, as well as to convince its own population that it has the military strength to intervene in any country
Apart from the “deep concern” expressed on behalf of Moscow by the Russian MFA spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, it looks like the intimations published in the last couple of days by Moscow media outlets are designed to tone down Moldova’s anti-Russian outbursts and scold Moldovan authorities, threatening to launch an attack. Admittedly, this is not best timing for Russia, considering its military flagship, “Moskva”, was sunk by the Ukrainian army, while other Russian military battleships have withdrawn from the waters around Odessa.
Another purpose of these articles is to prove to Russian citizens that Russia remains a military force to be reckoned with and can intervene anytime and anywhere to defend its interests or the interests of those claiming to be defending Russia’s interests.
This also tells the pro-Russian forces in Chișinău that “Moscow is coming” (or, to quote the former Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who addressed the disgruntled people of Crimea, “there is no money, but you hold on”) in order to continue to fuel discontent with the pro-European administration, to cause social unrest and to further weaken the Republic of Moldova at a very hard time for this country.
All things considered, the decision to ban the symbols of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, including the ribbon of Saint George, which is (wrongfully) considered a symbol of the USSR’s victory in WWII, together with a draft law on combating propaganda and disinformation (with special focus on the ones launched by Russia) are some of the firmest actions the Republic of Moldova has undertaken since the start of the war in Ukraine. The pro-European government in the Republic of Moldova seemed rather rattled by news of the Russian invasion in Ukraine on February 24, when everyone estimated Ukraine would quickly surrender. The Republic of Moldova is one of the few European countries that have not imposed economic and political sanctions on Russia, invoking the country’s reliance on Russian gas, although many states that find themselves in a similar position have done so.
On the other hand, the Republic of Moldova will remain extremely exposed if Ukraine is overrun. With an underfinanced and underequipped army, with many pro-Russian sympathizers and considering the breakaway region of Transnistria is de facto under the control of the Russian Federation, any decision that might hurt Moscow’s interests, despite their audacity, are extremely risky and might produce medium-term political and economic effects.