Most fake news and disinformation in 2021 revolved around the early parliamentary election of July, won by the pro-European Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) and lost by the Party of Socialists in the Republic of Moldova (PSRM), a pro-Russian party. The fake news targeted Moldova’s assimilation by the West, the pro-Europeans’ plans to destabilize Transnistria, their intention to shut down churches and ban the Russian language, etc. The fake news and disinformation were primarily carried by PSRM-linked media, Russian-language publications in the Republic of Moldova and beyond.
Top 5 narratives
- The West is undermining the sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova, and the country will be sold to foreigners. Most articles debunked by Veridica drew on the narrative about Western inference with the Republic of Moldova’s domestic affairs. This narrative was the centerpiece of PSRM’s election campaign and continues to be used by the media associated with this party even after the power was seized by PAS, a pro-European political party founded by Maia Sandu. If right-wing forces seize power, the Republic of Moldova will disappear as a state, Moldovans abroad will no longer have a country to return to and Moldova will become a pocket country that will carry out the orders of Western partners. Maia Sandu and PAS will sell farmland to foreigners, Moldova will not survive without its friendship with Russia, will be swallowed up by West, as some pro-Europeans desire, and it will be used against Russia. Our sovereignty is being threatened from both within and the outside – nationalism, unionism and Romanianism are surging. Maia Sandu was brought to power by Western forces to do their bidding, with the help of civil society, external forces obtained access to secret intelligence, and overall, the West is responsible for all the crises facing ex-Soviet countries – these are all just a few articles Veridica has disproved.
- Maia Sandu will destabilize Transnistria. The Transnistrian topic was also revitalized by the PSRM-associated media outlets in the context of the election. Maia Sandu was the target of a number of attacks regarding the escalation of the conflict in Transnistria: Maia Sandu needs NATO for a war with Transnistria, Maia Sandu agreed with Zelensky to attack Transnistria, but the Americans and Romanians also want to attack Tiraspol, according to another piece of fake news disconfirmed by Veridica. At the same time, plenty of disinformation flooded the media, claiming the separatist region might be subjected to a blockade imposed by the Republic of Moldova. On the other hand, Russia is depicted as the warrantor of security in the region: the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping corps in Transnistria will lead to war; the presence of Russian military troops in Transnistria contributes to keeping the peace; the Russians in Transnistria need to vote for Putin in the election for the State Duma, since he is the one who’s protecting the Russian World against the West.
- The Republic of Moldova – a bridgehead in the war waged by the West and NATO against Russia. This narrative was included in numerous fake news and disinformation articles, primarily targeting Maia Sandu, accusing her of wanting to involve Moldova in a regional conflict, in the context of the developments in neighboring Ukraine: the current administration in Chișinău pushes for the country’s NATO accession and wants to embroil Moldova in regional conflicts; NATO allegedly wants Moldovans to fight Russia in the interest of the USA; 400 US military were brought to Chișinău to take part in the war in Donbas against Russia. The “regime” in Chișinău wants to drag the Republic of Moldova in NATO and is ready to resort to “unfriendly” actions towards Moscow; and Moldovan citizens will be cannon fodder in the war against Russia, former president Igor Dodon said in an extensive interview for Ria Novosti.
- Pro-Europeans want to destroy the Orthodox Church in the Republic of Moldova. The narrative emerged in a series of articles, also targeting the new administration in Chișinău, as well as in the context of the COVID pandemic and the health restrictions imposed at society level, including the church: the pro-European government in Chișinău wants to destroy the Church, by limiting the number of faithful allowed to enter places of worship during the pandemic; Maia Sandu’s pro-Western puppet-regime wants to lock up the Moldovan Orthodox Church in a golden birdcage and have it obey a new government and its Western masters; Maia Sandu will take revenge on the Church for having supported Igor Dodon, and will close down churches subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchy at the West’s request, and will equally favor the takeover of parishes by the Romanian Patriarchy. The narratives are designed to discredit Maia Sandu, considering that the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchy, is closely involved in Moldovan politics, particularly backing pro-Russian politicians.
- Moldova is part of the Russian World. The narrative revolves around Bessarabia’s past as part of the Russian Empire and subsequently the USSR, and the fact that a large part of the population speaks Russia. The narrative was constantly promoted by the Kremlin’s influence agencies, the Russian-language media, which accounts for a significant share of the Moldovan media landscape and holds sway over pro-Russian politicians in Chișinău. The Russian Federation is our most loyal and trusted friend and strategic partner, former president Igor Dodon said on Russia’s National Day; Moldova needs Russia in order to be able to feed its people; the Russian language is the binding element of Moldovan statehood; Russia should intervene in order to prevent the Republic of Moldova from “being swallowed” by Romania. The narrative was aimed at highlighting Moldova’s place in the Russian Federation’s sphere of influence, the so-called “Russian World”, because Russia has a rightful claim over the territories that were once part of the USSR.
Top 5 FAKE NEWS
- FAKE NEWS: Moldova, an American springboard for the war against Russia. “400 American military arrived in Moldova and are to be deployed to Odessa, in case Ukrainian authorities launch hostilities in Donbass”. The article was published by Russian news outlets and redistributed in the Republic of Moldova. According to the publication, the military supposedly checked in with a hotel in downtown Chișinău. This is one of the favorite narratives of propaganda and disinformation efforts coming from the Kremlin – the danger of NATO, the war in Donbass, dragging other states in the region in a war against Russia. The Moldovan Ministry of Defense has labeled the information fake news.
- FAKE NEWS: The EU Association Agreement is detrimental to Moldova. The EU Association Agreement did not bring any benefits to Moldova, which lost the Russian market without being able to export to the EU, according to a false narrative published in the Russian media. The news is meant to discredit economic cooperation between Chișinău and the European Union and to promote the idea that the best development solution is to get closer to Russia. In fact, Moldova’s external trade increased substantially after the coming into force of the Free Trade Agreement, accounting for 60% of total trade. Conversely, Moldova’s exports to CSI countries over January-October 2021 accounted for merely 15% of the country’s total exports.
- FAKE NEWS: Moldova blocks Sputnik V because it’s hostile towards Russia. Chişinău authorities put citizens’ lives at risk by refusing the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, writes kp.md, adding that the decision was in fact a geopolitical one and was made out of hostility towards Russia. Therefore, the citizens of the Republic of Moldova would be engaged, against their will, in a new Cold War with Russia. The news broke out at the start of the vaccination campaign in the Republic of Moldova, when the first batches of vaccines arrived from Romania. The Russian vaccine was authorized for use in the Republic of Moldova, although it hadn’t obtained certification from international health organizations. It was later brought to Chişinău by Igor Dodon as humanitarian aid.
- FAKE NEWS: Schools with Russian-language teaching are being closed down in the Republic of Moldova. The closing down of a grammar school for 51 pupils gave rise to a false narrative claiming that “Russian-language schools are being closed down in the Republic of Moldova”. This type of fake news is periodically disseminated in the Republic of Moldova, where the number of school pupils is dropping, and some schools are being reorganized. They are meant to refuel phobias of national minorities by making them believe the pro-European government in Chișinău will limit their rights.
- FAKE NEWS: The Republic of Moldova is gladly taking in Afghan refugees, bloknot-moldova.md writes, referring to a post on Facebook, according to which on August 28, over 60 passengers onboard an aircraft flying from Bucharest to Chișinău were “Afghans, Syrians or even Taliban”. According to the source, the said passengers already had stay permits for the Republic of Moldova. The news was picked up by a number of Russian-language media outlets, which claim the refugees enter the country via Romania. The issue of refugees has become a particularly important topic in the Republic of Moldova. There’s already a famous false narrative spread during the campaign for the 2016 election, which was based on a pamphlet: a number of media outlets wrote that Maia Sandu, who at the time was facing pro-Russian Igor Dodon, had allegedly come to an agreement with the West to take in 30,000 Syrian refugees should she win the election.
Top 5 DISINFORMATION
- DISINFORMATION: Russia has a right over the territories that used to be part of the USSR. Russia has a right over the territories lost as a result of the dissolution of the USSR, according to a false narrative promoted by the Kremlin’s mouthpiece, Sputnik. The narrative was published while Russia was amassing troops and equipment at the border with Ukraine. The narratives aim to emphasize the belonging of the former republics to the Russian space and world and Russia's right over these territories.
- DISINFORMATION: The Sandu government is to blame for the rising gas prices around the world. Igor Dodon blames the Sandu administration for the natural gas price hikes, whereas in fact prices went up on all international markets. “PAS and the head of state must talk to America and Europe, with Soros and others, to talk with all their patrons and political partners in order to find money, not interest-incurring loans, in order to help the population”, Dodon said. Igor Dodon’s statements are aimed at blaming the new administration for the recent hikes in natural gas prices caused by market developments at global level. At the same time, the narratives promoted by the former pro-Russian president are meant to challenge the Republic of Moldova’s pro-European trajectory. Starting November, the Republic of Moldova is paying approximately 450 USD per thousand cubic meters of natural gas, as stipulated by the contract the authorities have recently negotiated with Gazprom. The price obtained by the Republic of Moldova is lower than the one on European markets right now.
- DISINFORMATION: The government prefers the Moldovans in the diaspora to those in the country. To the PAS government, the Moldovans in the diaspora are better than those who have stayed in the country, according to a narrative released by Chisinau. The aim is to generate dissatisfaction with the PAS government, which benefited from a massive diaspora vote in the elections. In almost every Moldovan family, at least one member is working abroad. However, these citizens did not betray the Republic of Moldova as the publication tries to insinuate. On the contrary, for more than two decades, remittances have been a significant source for the budget of the majority of the population and, at the same time, amount to 15 percent of the GDP of the Republic of Moldova.
- DISINFORMATION: Romania was an occupation force in Moldova. Romania is an aggressor and expansionist state, which in 1918 occupied the current territory of the Republic of Moldova – this is the narrative presented at an open-air exhibition in central Chișinău, organized by “Stephen’s Followers” Youth Movement, an association linked to PSRM, founded with the overt purpose of “protecting Moldova against unionism”. This narrative is designed to undermine the Romanian identity of the population of the Republic of Moldova, also trying to smear the image of Romania by presenting it as an aggressor and expansionist state.
- DISINFORMATION: The Russian language is under fire in the Republic of Moldova. The ruling of the Moldovan Constitutional Court, nullifying the special status of the Russian language is a step towards the destruction of the state and union with Romania. The author refers to two rulings of the Constitutional Court – one passed on January 21, 2021, which renders unconstitutional the Law on the functioning of languages spoken in the Republic of Moldova, voted at the end of 2020, and a second one, passed on June 4, 2018, under which the Law on the functioning of languages spoken in the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic of 1989 is rendered obsolete. The rights of Russian speakers are observed and safeguarded in the Republic of Moldova, which has schools with exclusive Russian-language teaching, and this language is also taught in nearly all schools with Romanian-language teaching. Furthermore, ethnic minorities, not just Russians, speak and study Russian, to the detriment of their mother tongues. What is more, the State Register of Legal Decisions and the Official Journal of the Republic of Moldova are also translated into Russian. The narrative is seeking to push the fake notion that Moldova is a multi-national state, just like the former USSR, and like in the former USSR, Russian should be the lingua franca, to the detriment of Romanian. The Russian language serves as perhaps the most effective instrument for promoting the Kremlin’s interests in post-Soviet space and for maintaining the so-called “Russkyi mir”, the Russian world, an ideology promoted under the Russian Empire and later in the Soviet Union
Top 3 most outlandish narratives
- Inclusive and health policies are forms of totalitarianism. Vaccination, tolerance of LGBTQ+ people, digitalization – all these translate into the establishment of a totalitarian regime, according to a Russian historian, quoted by a news website in Chișinău. The narrative is part of a campaign aimed at undermining Western democracies by hijacking the values that underlie them, such as democracy and freedom. At the same time, it seeks to create confusion about the difference between political concepts and fundamental freedoms and healthcare measures.
- Maia Sandu is responsible for the price hikes caused by drought. A news story about the rise in oil prices, taken over by the PSRM affiliated press, is falsely associated with the coming into office of the new President of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu. The news is aimed at blaming Maia Sandu for the increase in prices. At the same time, such narratives aim to destabilize and wreak havoc on society. The fact that oil prices went up just as Maia Sandu took over the presidential office was just a coincidence. Farmers, producers and economic experts had warned in 2020 that certain products would become more expensive, against the backdrop of the severe drought that affected Moldova last year.
- Monuments honoring fascists are erected in Moldova. The restoration of a monument in Chișinău devoted to the Romanian forces that fought in the First World War led to the resumption, by Russia and the pro-Russian media, of the narratives about the Romanian army in WWII, including those regarding the occupation of Bessarabia – a territory which was in fact liberated after its annexation by the USSR under the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. The narratives aim to put in a bad light Romania and the Romanian Army in the Republic of Moldova, but also to mobilize pro-Russian, nostalgic, Moldovan and anti-Romanian forces.