Moldova President Maia Sandu claims to have uncovered Russian plans to overthrow the government of her country. According to Sandu, the plans involve the use of violent protests and attacks on government buildings to destabilise the country. The Russian Foreign Ministry has denied the accusations, saying that the claims are “absolutely unfounded and unsubstantiated.”
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, February 14th, President Sandu said Moldovan internal security services had verified the plans for a coup, originally revealed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky:
The plan … involves actions involving diversionists with military training, camouflaged in civilian clothes, who would undertake violent action, carry out attacks on buildings of state institutions, or even take hostages. Violent actions, masked as protests of the so-called opposition, would force a change of power in Chișinău.
She proceeded to claim that the plan would involve actors not just from the Russian Federation, but also from Belarus, Serbia, and Montenegro.
The apparent end goal was to put Moldova “at the disposal of Russia” in its war effort against Ukraine. Moldovan intelligence has previously warned that Russia could attempt to form a land bridge with the Russian-backed breakaway region of Transnistria. Additionally, at the beginning of February, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov threatened Moldova with becoming a repeat of Ukraine if it continued its accession to the EU.
In the past week, Moldova has also seen domestic chaos. The government, including the prime minister, resigned on Friday, February 10th. This followed a wave of protests, organised by the pro-Russian exiled opposition leader Ilan Șor, which arrived at the tail end of a long-running economic and security crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Maia Sandu directly accused the opposition of being implicated with the Russian plot:
In carrying out the plan, the authors rely on internal forces, in particular on criminal groups such as the Șor Group and all its branches, on certain veterans, on former law enforcement employees and on several people who are known to have had connections with Plahotniuc.
Șor’s embroilment in the plot appears to be a logical conclusion given his party’s Moldovanist stance, which stresses that Moldovans have a separate ethnic identity from Romanians and consequently promotes closer relations with Russia and the East. The link with businessman and ex-politician Plahotniuc, who fled the country to evade corruption charges, is less obvious, since he and his party took a pro-European stance when in parliament, and came under Russian attack for doing so.
The Șor Party was recently fined by the national election authorities for lack of transparency in its finances. In November of last year, the Justice Minister of Moldova also asked the Constitutional Court to begin proceedings to ban the party due to it allegedly promoting the interests of a foreign state.
Despite such oppositional challenges, the pro-Western aspirations of President Sandu remain undeterred. She has nominated Dorin Recean, former minister of internal affairs, as the new prime minister. Their pro-Western and anti-corruption Party of Action and Solidarity still holds an absolute majority in parliament.