The US intelligence community believes that individuals with ties to Russian intelligence are planning to stage protests in Moldova to try to foment a manufactured insurrection against the Moldovan government, with the ultimate goal of seeing a more pro-Russia administration installed there, White House officials said Friday.
The US believes that Russia is working to weaken the Moldovan government which is seeking closer ties with the European Union, the officials said. The US is also seeing signs that Russian government-linked actors could provide training to anti-government demonstrators in Moldova. The country’s capital, Chisinau, has been rocked by anti-government protests in recent weeks, largely organized by Moldova’s Russia-friendly Shor Party.
The Biden administraiton also believes that Moscow is working to sow disinformation about Moldova’s overall stability. One example was the Russian Ministry of Defense’s claim last month that Ukraine has been planning to invade Transnistria, Moldova’s Moscow-backed separatist region. US officials said those allegations are “unfounded, false, and create baseless alarm.”
Moldova’s President, Maia Sandu, said publicly last month that she believes the Russian government was planning “a series of actions involving saboteurs who have undergone military training and are disguised as civilians to carry out violent actions, attacks on government buildings and hostage-taking.”
The Biden administration sees no immediate military threat to Moldova, officials said. But the US has been watching Russia’s activities in Moldova closely, wary of Russia’s ongoing efforts to destabilize Europe. President Joe Biden met with Sandu last month in Warsaw, where they discussed Russian malign influence activities.
The US is declassifying this intelligence now in an effort to deter Russia from moving froward with its plans, the officials said, similar to how the US has been regularly declassifying intelligence about Russia’s intentions in Ukraine with the aim of exposing their plans.
The administration sanctioned nine individuals and 12 entities in October that the US believed to be involved in working to destabilize Moldova, including oligarchs “widely recognized for capturing and corrupting Moldova’s political and economic institutions and those acting as instruments of Russia’s global influence campaign,” the US Treasury Department said in a statement at the time.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Sandu at the Munich Security Conference in mid-February and voiced “deep concern” about efforts by Russia to destabilize the Moldovan government.
“We stand strongly with Moldova in support of its security, its independence, its territorial integrity, the very important reform efforts that the president and the government are making,” Blinken said. “At the same time, we have deep concern about some of the plotting that we’ve seen coming from Russia to try to destabilize the government, but appreciate, of course, the efforts that – the good efforts being made by Moldova to protect against that.”