Moldova’s Interior Minister: “In the Republic of Moldova, Russia’s primary goal was to spread propaganda, disinformation and to use blackmail”

Minister of Internal Affairs of Moldova Ana Revenco(L) talks to media during launch ceremony of the EU Support Hub for Internal Security and Border Management in Moldova during EU Informal Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, 11 July 2022.
© EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK   |   Minister of Internal Affairs of Moldova Ana Revenco(L) talks to media during launch ceremony of the EU Support Hub for Internal Security and Border Management in Moldova during EU Informal Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, 11 July 2022.

Russia is involved in a hybrid war against the Republic of Moldova, says the Moldovan Interior Minister, Ana Revenco. In an interview to Veridica, Minister Revenco also said that, in spite of facing the greatest security challenges since the war in Transnistria, the Republic of Moldova also benefits from the West’s endorsement, which has conveyed a clear message to Russia regarding the “red lines” it shouldn’t cross with respect to Chișinău.

The security context in the Republic of Moldova “remains volatile”

VERIDICA: How safe is the Republic of Moldova today, considering Russia’s destabilization efforts?

Ana Revenco: The security of both the Republic of Moldova as well as the region remains volatile. There still are potential risks of destabilizing the internal context. We can see these signs every weekend, in those protests [organized by Ilan Shor’s Party], and the population of certain regions can see them too.

These destabilization attempts manifest themselves through elements of the fully-fledged hybrid war the Republic of Moldova has been experiencing for over 14 months. The main constituent of this hybrid war transpires in the way the population has been radicalized. This is meant to alienate the population towards pro-European national leaders.

The most important instrument at our disposal is to exchange information with our strategic partners, which is something extremely important. Our Ministry works with all the other security agencies across the country. We have a vast approach to prevention mechanisms. The risk analyses we carry out on a regular and continuous basis allow us to anticipate those areas that have a high risk of being exposed to actions that should produce negative effects for the economy or affect people’s morale, etc. And we take action in each specific case by identifying hostile people or agents of influence.

VERIDICA: Are any hostile people or agents of influence trying to enter the Republic of Moldova at present?

Ana Revenco: We have moved beyond suspicions, as this risk has already materialized.

VERIDICA: The authorities have actually published images of a Russian mercenary, a member of the Wagner military outfit, who was trying to enter Moldova…

Ana Revenco: Yes, indeed. And the risk remains high, which is why we have raised our security profile at the start of the year, because in light of the information we exchanged with our partners, we have quite strong reasons to suspect renewed attempts at destabilizing the Republic of Moldova.

Risk analyses in this respect, exchanging information and our overall approach to these threats have proved our system is becoming more and more resilient.

We continue to resist these attempts, but we understand that, considering the fact there’s a war close to our borders, we are exposed to the risk of people belonging to paramilitary organizations entering our country.

Ana Revenco: “We are still losing the information war against the Russian propaganda machine, whose sole purpose is to radicalize the population of the entire European continent”

VERIDICA: What does Russia’s hybrid war against Moldova consist in and what will be the role of the forthcoming civilian mission of the EU, which is supposed to be deployed to Chișinău in order to help the authorities in this sector?

Ana Revenco: The two matters are interconnected, indeed. The EU’s civilian mission will focus on a number of aspects. More specifically, on providing support and expertise with a view to consolidating Moldova’s crisis management system. The system we are using today to solve crises has already demonstrated its shortcomings when faced with several, overlapping crises.

We are talking about crises whose effects are felt across various areas of daily life over a prolonged period of time. And here we are referring to the energy, social, military and public sectors, the free movement of people, food safety, the security of our neighbors [Ukrainian refugees] who seek peace and quiet, here in our country, etc.

I have called for assistance from experts working in a number of fields, so we could have an integrated and inclusive approach to this mechanism.

In the end, we want to have a resilient mechanism, capable of meeting our needs to manage multiple crises in the Republic of Moldova.

At the same time, such a mechanism will also ensure inter-operability with crisis management systems in EU member states. This will be a further step forward in terms of our European integration.

Another pillar which will underlie this mission, and I hope we will have a robust team of experts in this sector, has to do with cyber-security, which is itself a constituent of this hybrid war.

There have been multiple cyber-attacks on critical computer systems of several key institutions of the Republic of Moldova. Had these attacks been successful, they would have hampered the well-functioning of several institutions that ensure our citizens can go about their daily lives without impediments. Failure to counteract these attacks would have generated chaos, and chaos breeds new opportunities [for foreign agents] to infiltrate our country. Then we should also mention the loss of public trust in the authorities. This would certainly be how the Russian propaganda would describe this situation and thus consolidate its present-day smear campaign targeting our leaders.

This makes me think of another element – disinformation. In this respect, we want our response to be robust in terms of strategic communication. Since World War II, no other country in Europe has experienced the crisis impacting the entire European continent due to the war in Ukraine to the extent we do.

The crises facing Moldova are sophisticated, and we are looking for security, communication and technology solutions and models that would serve the purpose of strategic communication – Stratcom – and factor in all the aspects of these multiple and overlapping crises.

In my opinion, we, and I’m referring not just to the Republic of Moldova, are all losing the information war against the Russian propaganda machine, whose sole purpose is to radicalize the population of the entire European continent.

In this respect, let us refer to cyber-attacks, false bomb alerts which tested our systems and drained the energy, funds and capabilities of law enforcement structures in Chișinău. We can also add toxic information and news that have raised anxiety levels across the Moldovan society. And this prevents people from seeing the progress that has been made in terms of European integration.

The number one objective of Russian propaganda is to diminish public approval for the country’s leaders, which would be tantamount to the Republic of Moldova discontinuing its European track.

Each time the Republic of Moldova makes a step closer to the EU, Russia punishes this “act of non-alignment”

VERIDICA: Russia has recently added you to a list of Moldovan officials who are banned from entering this country. I doubt you were planning to visit the Russian Federation, but what are the political implications of this gesture and how do you interpret it?

Ana Revenco: Rather, I see it as a sign of weakness. It speaks to Russia’s lack of power. It is a cheap media stunt whereby Moscow can flex its muscles. At any rate, I wasn’t planning to go to Moscow and I don’t see the point of doing that.

For over ten years, bilateral relations with the Russian Federations have stagnated to a declarative and decorative level. In the Republic of Moldova, Russia’s primary goal was to spread propaganda and disinformation and to use instruments bordering blackmail. It has preserved a strong influence for dozens of years in our country. It is exactly what Moscow seeks to do in the future as well.

Every time the Republic of Moldova tries to raise its head and make a step closer to the EU, Russia punishes this “act of non-alignment”. And I can provide several examples in that respect. In 2005, Russia introduced an embargo on Russia wine exports, because Chișinău refused to sign off on its federalization plan. That dealt a heavy blow to the country’s economy. When we refer to the winemaking sector, Moldova has a vast industry with lots of jobs and large contributions to the state budget. Let me also mention another embargo, introduced in 2014, the year the Republic of Moldova signed the EU Association Agreement. Back then, Russia, adopted a hostile position towards Chișinău for the next year in terms of fruit and vegetable trading.

We can see the same response today, after we made a firm argument in favor of European integration. We have been the subject of energy blackmail. Russia relied on the fact that the Republic of Moldova will not be able to cope with the high flow of refugees. Sadly for them, we were successful in managing the refugee crisis, jointly with all Moldovans who have resisted and have provided Ukrainians with assistance. Russia then resorted to hybrid war elements, including using food security as leverage.

Russia wants to somehow regain geopolitical control over Moldova, because that would also mean it can influence the economy and policy-making in Chișinău through radicalized citizens who exert pressure on the government. Additionally, Russia wants to force Ukraine to deploy troops on its western border [the border with Transnistria], which would mean stretching thin its resistance efforts along the frontlines.

Russia wants to influence regional trade and gain control of the Danube River, in particular the port of Giurgiulești, which would also grant access to the Black Sea. This would be a strong military achievement for Russia, if we consider its plans to attack western or northern Ukraine. It would also keep NATO in check, since NATO bases are very close to the borders of the Republic of Moldova. Russia is also trying to use the Soviet-era munition depot in Cobsana [in Transnistria, e.n.] to its advantage.

In the end, all that would help Russia gain the upper hand in potential peace negotiations, which unfortunately are nowhere in sight in the near future.

Frontex missions on the eastern Moldovan border confirm that the EU’s umbrella of security has extended to Moldova as well

VERIDICA: What is the situation on the Ukrainian border? We know you also receive assistance from Frontex missions. What are the main indicators concerning the problems facing Moldova on this segment of the border?

Ana Revenco: The presence of the EU’s Frontex mission here is a recognition of the confidence we enjoy. It also recognizes the Republic of Moldova as an equal partner. Frontex has mixed teams deployed to the area. This means that a Frontex expert representing a member state works on the same team with a Moldovan expert, taking part in the same missions and sharing the same tasks. They follow the same protocols and guidelines. In practical terms, this means Moldova is already part of the security system when we refer to the EU’s borders.

Moreover, starting 2023, these mixed teams are operating not just on the EU’s borders with the Republic of Moldova, but also on Moldova’s eastern border. Therefore, Frontex operates on the eastern border of the Republic of Moldova, meaning the EU’s border no longer ends where the Union’s administrative borders do. This sends a powerful signal, as the EU considers us a security provider.

The EU and Member States have extended the umbrella of security to include the Republic of Moldova as well. Working in mixed teams, we use the same methods as the EU in terms of ensuring the security of our borders. Exchanging information, planning and carrying out missions and documenting incidents reported on our borders – all that is being done jointly with our colleagues from Frontex.

At the end of the day, we have a successful mission meant to secure our borders, which further confirms that Moldova is operating in line with EU protocols and standards.

Starting 2023, we have agreed that Frontex missions should not just involve border control missions per se, but also case-specific training, which will allow us to include training modules in line with Frontex principles in the vocational training system addressing our border police officers.

Frontex also helps us achieve objectives laid out in the community aquis. I can say that, jointly with Romania, Lithuania and Frontex, we have implemented an assessment exercise, more specifically a Schengen evaluation. What does that entail? We now know exactly what we lack in terms of Schengen standards. This is how we will build the plan that will help us implement the community aquis, to modernize the country and achieve technology-driven development. We make sure every investment involving human or financial resources, every partnership corresponds to this standard we strive to attain in the long term. Frontex has been by our side in that process as well.

The flow of both passengers and goods has increased on both the eastern and western borders. We need more staff, and this is why Frontex was here to help. With the increase in mobility flows, the risk of cross-border crime also goes up.

Attempts at smuggling light guns and ammunition or drugs into the Republic of Moldova have increased three or four times, as have attempts at crossing the border using false identification documents. 

Prevention means having the capacity to investigate these crimes, the capacity to trade information with European databases. We also benefit from assistance in terms of technologies and devices, while our partners also share the technical know-how allowing us to conduct these controls.

VERIDICA: How would you describe your cooperation with Romania on the common border?

Ana Revenco: We have recently rendered operational a system of coordinated border checks on the Leușeni – Albița checkpoint. It is a mechanism that, on the one hand, is designed to do away with potential deadlocks related to the logistics of supply chains. On the other hand, unblocking these border crossing flows wouold also help prevent and combat cross-border crime.

We are equally working with Frontex, but our cooperation with our colleagues from Romania remains extremely important as well. By means of joint actions, we can identify any attempts on the western border, our border with the EU, any case that involves organized crime.

It’s not easy for anyone. Romania too is involved in this process, and we need to increase the number of police officers as well and to improve our technologies and infrastructure. But the fact that we have created this system is really important for the business sector too. Our concern for security goes well beyond the classical view of fighting crime. Security is also about creating opportunities for the business sector, allowing citizens to cross the border more easily. This would also make the Republic of Moldova more dynamic.

Obviously, we want to standardize the practice of having a single border check on all our borders with Romania. The state of the current negotiations in that respect is very promising. We are working on a new checkpoint at Leova-Bumbăta, which I hope we’ll be able to render operational this month. It would ease pressure on the other border crossing points and contribute to our overall effort of preventing and combating crime.

We have also started working on making new interconnections by building new bridges over Prut River and many others. As a result, we will curb the success rate of illegal dealings. It is in this broader context that we approach border security.

The Republic of Moldova’s home security strategy and the situation in the region

VERIDICA: We also know Moldova’s Interior Ministry itself is undergoing a process of reform, but I would ask you what role will the Interior Ministry play in the upcoming Security Strategy, a document that is being elaborated as we speak? Will the Ministry also influence the main guidelines for elaborating the documents that will regulate the defense and security of the Republic of Moldova?

Ana Revenco: The Interior Ministry has stopped approaching security objectives in the narrow, classical sense for some time now. I’m referring here to road accidents, thefts and drugs. Security is about creating a space of security, much like adopting and operationalizing those instruments that, on the one hand, discourage people from acting in bad faith. At the same time, we are helping people of good faith to build a business and move quickly to destinations of their choosing, to create partnerships and access certain information.

Our intervention is such that creates opportunities allowing social and economic life to take on new dimensions. That means the Interior Ministry has expanded its MO, and we are operating based on a model that intertwines intelligence, technology and cooperation with the business sector. We cooperate with agencies that are not necessarily seen as traditional partners of a government authority that takes charge of public order and security.

And that’s exactly our proposal for the role the Interior Ministry should play in the national strategy, in terms of crisis management, the Ministry’s role as a first responder and frontline player. Our biggest focus is on prevention, cooperation with all stakeholders and involving the population and civil society in our activity. We all have a big role to play in what we call security today.

We also seek to streamline our communication and interaction with citizens, with a focus on prevention. For this reason, we will channel our efforts on community activities, international cooperation, and we will stop devising our domestic security policy according [only] to local interests. We want our Ministry to become a regional player in order to ensure security at home as well.

So far, from our talks with our European partners, we share a common mission to keep the situation in check and ensure a level of social stability at home that should also contribute to the regional security framework.

Russia wanted to generate instability in order to change the government and Moldova’s European track. That would severely disrupt the region as well and influence Ukraine’s efforts to mount a resistance, also impacting EU accession talks.

We understand our commitment towards our citizens, as well as our role in the broader European security ecosystem. All things considered, the National Security Strategy of the Republic of Moldova should go hand in hand with Europe’s own security policies.


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