Moldovan police said on Sunday they had thwarted a plot by groups of specially trained Russian-backed actors to cause mass disturbances during a protest against the country’s new pro-Western government.
Moldova’s chief of police, Viorel Cernauteanu, said in a press conference that a secret agent had infiltrated groups of “transgenders,” some Russian citizens, who had been promised money to organize “mass mayhem” to destabilize Moldova during a protest in the capital. Chisinau.
He said that seven people had been arrested.
Separately, police said they arrested 54 protesters on Sunday, including 21 minors, who displayed “questionable behavior” or were found to be carrying prohibited items, including at least one knife.
Moldovan riot police form a line to stop people leaving a designated area during a protest initiated by the Movement for the People and members of Moldova’s Russia-friendly SURE party, against the pro-Western government and low living standards, in Chişinău, Moldova, Sunday, March 12, 2023. Moldovan police said on Sunday she foiled a plot by groups of specially trained Russian-backed actors to cause mass unrest during a protest the same day in the capital against the country’s newfound loyalist. Western government. (AP Photo/Aurel Obreja)
Sunday’s protest is one of several organized in recent weeks by a group calling itself the Movement for the People, which is backed by Moldova’s Russia-friendly SURE party, which holds six seats in the country’s 101-seat legislature.
The demonstrators are calling on the government to cover the costs of the winter energy bills in full and “not to involve the country in the war”.
They have repeatedly called on President Maia Sandhu to step down.
Police said four bomb threats were registered on Sunday, including one at the capital’s international airport, which they described as “an ongoing part of destabilizing measures” against Moldova, the ex-Soviet republic of about 2.6 million people.
Moldovan border police also said that in the past week 182 foreigners were denied entry to Moldova, including a “potential representative” of Russia’s Wagner Group, the private military company fighting in Ukraine, Moldova’s war-torn neighbour.
The police announcement came just days after US intelligence officials said they had determined that actors with ties to Russian intelligence planned to use protests in Moldova, a candidate in the European Union since last June, as a basis to foment an insurrection against the country’s government.
Moldova’s national anti-corruption agency said on Saturday it had seized more than 220,000 euros (£202,000) during checks in a case of alleged illegal financing of the Shor party by an organized criminal group.
The agency said that car searches of “couriers” for the Shore party discovered cash stuffed in envelopes and bags in various currencies, and that it was intended to “pay transportation costs and compensate people who come to protests organized by the party”. .
Schor’s party leader, Ilan Schor, is a Moldovan oligarchy currently in exile in Israel.
Shore, who was named on the US State Department’s sanctions list as working for Russian interests. The UK also added Shore to its sanctions list in December.
People walk with a sign that reads “No to war in Moldova” during a protest initiated by the Movement for the People and members of Moldova’s Russia-friendly SURE party, against the pro-Western government and low living standards in Chişinău, Moldova, Sunday, March 12, 2023. Moldovan police said Sunday She foils a plot by groups of specially trained Russian-backed actors to cause mass disturbances during a protest the same day in the capital against the country’s newfound loyalists. Western government. (AP Photo/Aurel Obreja)
Christian Kanter, a Moldovan associate professor of international relations at the University of Auckland, says that while it is difficult to say how the alleged plans to overthrow the Moldovan government were implemented, “Russia has always sought to undermine pro-European governments.”
“I think the concerns are legitimate, and it’s hard to know exactly what the threat is and how dangerous some of these groups are, but it’s certainly a realistic concern,” he said.
Sor’s party also staged a series of anti-government protests last fall, when Moldova’s government asked the country’s Constitutional Court to declare Sor’s party illegal, in an ongoing case.
Around the same time, anti-corruption prosecutors alleged that the protests were funded in part by Russian money.
Last week, authorities in Moldova’s separatist Transnistrian region, which has close ties to Moscow and hosts Russian forces, claimed to have thwarted an assassination attempt on its president allegedly organized by Ukraine’s National Security Service, but did not provide evidence.
The SBU rejected the allegation, saying it “should be regarded exclusively as a Kremlin-organized provocation”.
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