() — A secret plan drawn up by Russia’s security service, the FSB, lays out detailed options to destabilize Moldova, including supporting pro-Russian groups, using the Orthodox Church and threatening to cut off natural gas supplies.
The document appears to have been drawn up to thwart Moldova’s leaning towards the West, which includes closer relations with NATO and a request to join the European Union. He repeatedly refers to the importance of preventing Moldova from joining NATO.
The plan was first obtained and reported by a consortium of media outlets, including VSquare and Frontstory, RISE Moldova, Expressen in Sweden, the Dossier Center for Investigative Journalism, Yahoo News, and Delfi.
saw the full document, which appears to have been written in 2021 by the FSB’s Directorate for Cross-Border Cooperation. Its title is “Strategic Objectives of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Moldova”.
The document sets out a 10-year strategy to bring Moldova, a former Soviet republic located between Ukraine and Romania, within Russia’s sphere of influence.
The plan includes making Moldova dependent on Russian gas imports and provoking social unrest, as well as trying to block Moldovan efforts to gain influence in the pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria, where some 1,500 Russian soldiers are stationed.
The five-page document is divided into multiple headings with short-, medium-, and long-term goals. Among the immediate objectives are “support for the Moldovan political forces that advocate constructive relations with the Russian Federation” and the “neutralization of the initiatives of the Republic of Moldova aimed at eliminating the Russian military presence in Transnistria.”
Medium-term objectives include “opposition to Romania’s expansionist policy in the Republic of Moldova” and “opposition to cooperation between the Republic of Moldova and NATO”.
The FSB document sets out long-term goals that include the “creation of stable pro-Russian influence groups in the Moldovan political and economic elites” and “the formation of a negative attitude towards NATO”.
When asked about the document on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We know nothing of the existence of such a plan. I do not rule out that this is another fake. Russia has always been and remains open to building good-neighborly and mutually beneficial relations, including with Moldova.”
Peskov added: “We are very sorry that the current leadership of Moldova is experiencing completely unjustified and groundless prejudice against Moscow.”
Russia has accused Ukraine of planning to invade and seize Transnistria, which borders southwestern Ukraine. The Russian Defense Ministry said last month that the Ukrainians were gathering weapons in several border villages. Moldova and Ukraine have dismissed the claims.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin canceled a 2012 decree upholding Moldova’s sovereignty, saying the move was to “guarantee Russia’s national interests in connection with the profound changes taking place in relations international”.
In recent weeks, Moldovan authorities have arrested several suspected pro-Russian activists, as well as a suspected member of the Wagner private military company who tried to enter the country.
There have also been several protests organized by a pro-Russian party in the capital, Chisinau.
Ukraine and the United States have warned about Russian efforts to destabilize the Moldovan government. Last Friday, the White House said that “Russian actors, some with current ties to Russian intelligence, are seeking to organize and use protests in Moldova as a basis for fomenting a fabricated insurrection against the Moldovan government.”
Western intelligence officials say the Russian strategy in itself is not surprising, but may have accelerated as the Moldovan government steps up efforts to cooperate more closely with the United States and European states.
Moldova’s current president, Maia Sandu, replaced Kremlin-close Igor Dodon in late 2020. The pro-Western PAS party won parliamentary elections the following year.
The pro-Russian Shor party has organized weekly rallies this year in the capital Chisinau, drawing several thousand people to protests over high energy prices. The party has arranged transportation for attendees.
The party is led by Ilan Shor, a businessman with ties to Russia who is accused of stealing billions of dollars from Moldovan banks in 2014. He was later convicted of fraud but has denied any wrongdoing.
The US Treasury Department sanctioned Shor, his wife and the party in October 2022, saying that “Shor worked with Russian individuals to create a political alliance to control the Moldovan parliament, which would then support various laws in interest of the Russian Federation.”
Shor is currently believed to be in Israel.
Moldova and the West
The United States has promised budget support to the Moldovan government to help it cope with high energy prices. Gas tariffs have skyrocketed over the past year as a result of the conflict in Ukraine.
UK Foreign Minister James Cleverly was in Chisinau on Thursday. He said: “Few societies understand the covert tactics of Russian malign activity more than Moldova and Georgia,” adding that “the UK will not stand idly by as Moscow brazenly undermines its democracy, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Cleverly announced more financial support for Moldova to cope with high energy prices.
One of Shor’s leaders, Marina Tauber, told Swedish affiliate Expressen that the party demanded that the government cover people’s energy bills during the winter months. She denied that Russia was helping to organize or finance the protests.
Expressen reporter Mattias Carlsson, who is in Chisinau, told that the latest protest organized by Shor on Friday of last week had led to some arrests. Among the media attending the event, he said, was a reporter for Russian state media Sputnik.
Russian officials have frequently stressed the importance of a Moscow-friendly Moldovan government, as well as the importance of the Transnistria region.
Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February last year, the then commander of Russia’s Central Military Region, Major General Rustam Minnekaev, said that one of the goals of the so-called “special military operation” was to establish a corridor through from southern Ukraine to the Transnistria region.
— The association that originally reported the document also includes Süddeutsche Zeitung, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR); Frontstory and the Kyiv Independent.