Russia trying to meddle in Moldovan polls, say UK, US and Canada

International Desk Published: 13 June 2024, 09:55 PM
Russia trying to meddle in Moldovan polls, say UK, US and Canada
The three countries said that Moscow was attempting to undermine the Moldova’s pro-western president, Maia Sandu. Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images via The Guardian

The UK, US and Canada have accused Russia of a plot to interfere in Moldova’s presidential election and referendum on EU membership later this year.

In a pointed joint statement issued on the first day of the G7 summit in Italy, the three governments accused Russian actors of “spreading lies” and “seeking to undermine Moldovan democratic institutions” in a campaign of political interference stretching back years.

The three countries said that Moscow was attempting to undermine Moldova’s pro-western president, Maia Sandu, ahead of the next presidential election and referendum on EU membership. Both votes are set to take place on 20 October.

The former Soviet country, which borders Ukraine, has long feared Russian intervention in its domestic affairs, notably in the Kremlin-allied breakaway republic of Transnistria and the southern autonomous region of Gagauzia. Sandu’s government has been a strong supporter of Ukraine in its war against Moscow.

The UK, US and Canadian governments said Russian actors were seeking to “foment negative public perceptions” of Sandu, western governments and the prospect of Moldovan membership of the EU. Sandu has been president since 2020 when she was elected with 57.7% of the vote in the final runoff.

They accused Russia of “actively using disinformation and propaganda online, on the air, and on their streets to further their objectives” of “degrading public confidence in Moldova’s ability to secure itself and maintain rule of law”.

The statement singled out the Russian state broadcaster RT, which it said had been “involved in providing direct support” to Ilan Shor, a fugitive pro-Russian businessman who has been sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison in connection with the disappearance of $1bn from Moldovan banks in 2014.

The three countries warned that if Sandu were re-elected, “there is reason to believe Moscow will work to incite protests”. They said they were working closely with the Moldovan government and had already sanctioned actors involved, with further sanctions being considered.

“We will continue to support Moldova and the Moldovan people as they manage Kremlin interference and the impacts of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine,” the statement from the UK, US and Canada said. “We strongly support Moldova’s democratic, economic, security, and anti-corruption reforms and deepening European integration.”

“By revealing the Kremlin’s plot, we are making it clear to Moscow that we stand for free and fair elections and will not tolerate its attempts to meddle and undermine democratic processes. We urge the Kremlin to abandon these efforts to subvert Moldova’s democracy and to respect its sovereignty and the outcomes of free, fair, and independent elections.”

Source: The Guardian