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Moldovan police say they foiled a Russian-backed riot plot Story-level




CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Moldovan police said Sunday they foiled a plot by Russian-backed groups of actors who were specially trained to cause mass riots during a protest the same day in the capital against the country’s new pro-Western government.

Moldova’s police chief, Viorel Cernauteanu, told a news conference that an undercover agent had infiltrated groups of “diversionists”, some Russian citizens, who had been promised $10,000 to organize a “disorder of masses” to destabilize Moldova during a protest in the capital. , Chisinau. Seven people were detained, he said.

Separately, police said they arrested 54 protesters on Sunday, including 21 minors, who exhibited “questionable behaviour” or were carrying prohibited items, including at least one knife.

Sunday’s protest is one of several held in recent weeks Organized by a group calling itself Movement for the People, it is backed by the pro-Moldovan Shor Party, which holds six seats in the country’s 101-seat legislature.

The protesters are demanding that the government fully cover the costs of winter energy bills and “not involve the country in war.” They have repeatedly called on President Maia Sandu to step down.

Police said there were four bomb threats on Sunday, including one at the capital’s international airport, in what they called “an ongoing part of destabilization measures” against Moldova, a former Soviet republic with a population of around 2.6 million.

Moldovan border police also said on Sunday that 182 foreign nationals have been denied entry to Moldova in the past week, including a “possible representative” of Russia’s Wagner Group, the private military company fighting in Ukraine, Russia’s neighbor. War-torn Moldova.

The police announcement on Sunday comes a few days later US intelligence officials said have determined that actors with ties to Russian intelligence plan to use the protests in Moldova, a candidate for the European Union since last June, as a base to foment an insurrection against the country’s government.

On Saturday, Moldova’s national anti-corruption agency said it seized more than 220,000 euros ($234,000) during searches in a case of alleged illegal financing of the Shor party by an organized criminal group.

The agency said car searches of Shor Party “couriers” discovered money stuffed in envelopes and bags in various currencies, and that it was intended to “pay for transportation and reimburse people who attend protests organized by the party.” ”. ”

The leader of the Shor Party, Ilan Shor, is a Moldovan oligarch currently in exile in Israel. Shor, who is on a US State Department sanctions list for working for Russian interests. The UK also added Shor to a sanctions list in December.

Cristian Cantir, a Moldovan associate professor of international relations at Oakland University, says that while it is difficult to determine how alleged plans to overthrow the Moldovan government would play out, “Russia has always tried to undermine pro-European governments.”

“I think the concerns are legitimate, it’s hard to know what the exact nature of the threat is and how dangerous some of these groups could be,” he told The Associated Press, “but it’s an absolutely realistic concern.”

The Shor Party also staged a series of anti-government protests last fall, when the Moldovan government petitioned the country’s Constitutional Court to declare the Shor Party illegal, in an ongoing case. Around the same time, anti-corruption prosecutors also alleged that the protests were partly financed with Russian money.

Last week, authorities in the breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova, which has close ties to Moscow and hosts Russian troops, claimed he had thwarted an assassination attempt about its president allegedly organized by Ukraine’s national security service, the SBU, but provided no evidence.

The SBU rejected the accusation, saying it “should be regarded exclusively as a Kremlin-orchestrated provocation.”

Stephen McGrath reports from Warwick, England.

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