War in Ukraine: four questions on the threat of a pro-Russian coup denounced by Moldova

A risk “attacks” and of “hostage-taking”. Moldovan President Maia Sandu accused Russia on Monday, February 13, of wanting to overthrow the pro-European power in place in Chișinău. The leader of this country of 2.6 million inhabitants, stuck between Romania and Ukraine and candidate since the summer of 2022 to join the European Union (EU), has also planned enhanced security measures.

1What are the accusations made by Moldova?

The information shared by Moldova was mentioned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Brussels last week. They come from documents intercepted by the Ukrainian secret services. “The objective is to overthrow the constitutional order and replace the legitimate power of Chisinau by an illegitimate power (…) with the aim of stopping the process of integration into the EU”accuses the Head of State, in office since December 2020.

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According to her, the Kremlin is counting on “involvement of internal forces” such as the party of fugitive pro-Russian oligarch Ilan Sor, and on the possible arrival of Russian, Belarusian, Serbian and Montenegrin nationals in the territory. “The plan calls for attacks on state buildings and hostage-taking by saboteurs with a military past disguised as civilians”added Maia Sandu in a speech (in English) available on the Moldovan Presidency website.

2How is Russia reacting?

Moscow denied on Tuesday all “Moldova destabilization plan”. The assertions of the Moldovan leader “are absolutely unfounded and without evidence”, assured the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also accuses Ukraine of being behind this “disinformation” to fuel tensions between Russia and Moldova.

3What is the relationship between Moscow and Chișinău?

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Moldova already has to deal with the presence of Russian soldiers on its territory, as well as a large stock of ammunition in the pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria. The country has also been denouncing for months “Russia’s energy blackmail”, which has halved its gas deliveries. Moldova was totally dependent on Russian gas imports before the start of the conflict. Weakened by the economic and energy crisis, the government of Natalia Gavrilița also resigned on Friday, recalls Euroactiv. The former Prime Minister has since been replaced by a new pro-European head of government, Dorin Recean.

The geographical location of Moldova, neighboring Ukraine, worries the country’s authorities. The Ministry of Defense announced on Friday that it detected a projectile probably fired from the Black Sea that flew over two villages on its way to Ukraine. The Russian ambassador was summoned immediately. Last October, three missiles had already flown over Moldovan territory.

4How does Moldova intend to defend itself?

In this context, Maia Sandu announced a legislative project aimed at giving prosecutors and intelligence services “the instruments necessary to effectively combat the risks of harm to national security”. “The most aggressive form of attack is a disinformation attack,” she added, asking citizens to only trust information provided by the authorities. The Moldovan President promised that “the Kremlin’s attempts to create violence in Moldova would not work”, promising to fight “for the security of citizens and the State”.

On Tuesday February 14, the country closed its airspace for a few hours, to guarantee the safety and security of civil aviation”according to the Moldovan authorities, who gave no further details.

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