Attempt to destabilize Moldova and US sanctions
United States Department of the Treasury sanctioned seven Russians who were suspected of links to Moscow’s intelligence services. They were also accused of being part of an attempt to overthrow Moldova’s pro-Western Government. The pro-Russian propaganda is very powerful in Moldova, and the country has faced constant attacks in the infosphere. Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is part of the US Treasury, imposed sanctions because of attempts to destabilise democracy and influence elections in Moldova, Ukraine, and the Balkan countries. Russia’s embassy in Washington called the sanctions a “spy hysteria” and an attempt to meddle in relations between Russia and its neighbours.
These seven individuals were not made known in Moldova, and there was no publicly available information about them. According to the US sources, however, Konstantin Sapozhnikov should be among them and named as the leader of the group, which attempted to destabilise the Moldova government at the beginning of the year.
President Maia Sandu and her pro-European Government have experienced several demonstrations and calls for her ousting from the side of the pro-Russian opposition. Other members of the group had also worked on gathering security details on various government buildings in Moldova, logistical support for the plot, handled budgeting for and financing the plot in Chisinau, or they attempted to sway public opinion abroad in favour of Russia in the context of the war against Ukraine. Accused persons were also involved in anti-government protests in Moldova initiated by Ilan Shor, whose political party was declared unconstitutional by Moldova’s Constitutional Court on June 19.
The group is part of a large global information operation connected to Russia that targets Ukraine and neighbouring countries, as well as the European Union, the UK, and the US. Their members provoke, train, and oversee groups in democratic countries and conduct anti-government protests, rallies, marches, and demonstrations.
US sanctions on individuals that tried to destabilise Moldova also happened before. In October 2022, three Russian nationals were accused of coordinated efforts in 2020 and 2021 to influence the outcome of Moldova’s elections. They were added to the US sanction list.
“Collaboration with external partners is essential in ensuring peace and security in Moldova and throughout the region. We effectively counter attempts to undermine stability and promote sustainable development and progress in our country,” said Nicu Popescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova. The US sanctions, according to him, “represent an important step in our joint efforts to maintain stability and public order in our country”.