Anti-government rallies organized by the pro-Russian opposition have intensified in Moldova over the past two weeks. Thousands of people come out to the main squares of the cities, demanding the resignation of the current government, including President Maia Sandu.
Sometime before that, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that he had intercepted a Russian plan to prepare provocations in Moldova, and Sandu confirmed Kyiv’s information about a coup d’état being prepared. She also initiated the change of government, headed by former Interior Minister Dorin Recean. Russia, in turn, has already managed to accuse the “Kyiv regime” of preparing for the “occupation” of occupied Transnistria.
Opposition protests in Moldova are not a new phenomenon. Active rallies have periodically erupted in Moldovan cities for almost a year. The situation began to escalate after Zelensky announced a coup d’etat that Moscow is preparing in Moldova. According to the Kremlin’s plan, destabilization activities and forceful actions involving saboteurs are to begin in Moldova.
“The plan provides for the use of people from outside the country for violent actions in Moldova. For example, the materials contain instructions for citizens of the Russian Federation, Belarus, Serbia, and Montenegro to enter Moldova”
The day after Sandu’s statement, Moldova temporarily closed its airspace. The networks discussed a Russian reconnaissance drone that was spotted over the country, although this information was not officially confirmed.
Later, Wizz Air, the largest low-cost in Central and Eastern Europe, decided to stop flights to Moldova as of March 14. Representatives of the air carrier said that the airspace over the country was no longer safe.
At the same time, the pro-Russian “SOR” party, named after local politician Ilon Shor, which was looking for a reason to take people to the streets, finally found a suitable option – high gas and electricity tariffs. Over the past year, for obvious reasons, the price of gas in Moldova has risen considerably. The government compensated some of the tariffs to consumers, but pro-Kremlin politicians “sold” the idea to the local population that partial compensation is unfair and therefore full compensation should be demanded.
Rallies erupted with renewed force in the cities, protests from the “Movement for the People” (also created by Shor), the essence of which was that the Moldovan government and Sandu herself should resign. Thus, the pro-Kremlin Shor created the picture it needed for Moscow – the unrest of indignant Moldovans, their dissatisfaction with the government, and demands for its change.
Today the number of protesters is about 4-5 thousand, they are not dangerous as such, the attempts to storm the administrative buildings are more like provocations against the law enforcement officers, rather than real intentions. However, the situation may change for the worse, believes the Moldovan political and social expert Sergiu Ostaf.
“The demonstrations may continue if more than 10-20 thousand gather. I see that there is a trend in this direction. The actions may become more massive. In addition, we see the participation of Russian subversive groups, and financial support from corporations like Lukoil, which are in our country and support pro-Russian movements”
Russian special services have been intervening in the political sphere in Moldova since at least 2005
Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) MP Andrian Keptonar claims that Russia allegedly tried to stage a coup d’état in Moldova in 2005. He said this at a parliamentary session on March 2.
“In 2005 I was a young officer of the Information and Security Service, I participated in the operation to prevent this Russian sabotage and I can speak about it based on my personal experience. So, in 2005, a few months before the elections, 30 officers of the GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate of Russia) and Russian political technologists came to Moldova. They intimidated and discredited political leaders who held different views”
The deputy also claims that on February 17, 2005, the SIS and the Interior Ministry conducted an operation “to stop this Russian attack on democracy in Moldova.
“I took part in this operation and I can say that about 30 Russian citizens were detained. On the same day, a Moscow-Chisinau train was stopped at the entrance to the country, which was full of people of athletic build. They also stopped several buses with saboteurs who were on their way to Moldova to prepare the ground for mass disturbances. They failed because the SIS and MIA were able to uncover the operation.
Future of Moldova
Russia has been pressuring Moldova for a long time on various fronts. First of all, it is the “energy dependence” – the increase in energy prices, which led to today’s rallies. The second direction is the agricultural one. The Kremlin periodically imposes an embargo on the import of various goods from Moldova. For example, in March 2022, Rosselkhoznadzor ( Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision) imposed a ban on the delivery of products of plant origin.
The third and perhaps most important direction is the military-political. The Kremlin has drawn conclusions from the mistakes it made with Ukraine. Instead of creating pro-Russian parties, the Russians have tried to “spread out” throughout the Moldovan Parliament, finding “friends” both among the unionists (a movement advocating the unification of Moldova and Romania) and among the pro-European politicians. Local “agents of influence”, active Kremlin propaganda and “useful idiots” – Russia actively occupies these niches.