Moldova President claims Putin is plotting to overthrow pro-EU team

Zelensky accuses Russia of trying to destabilise Moldova

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Moldova’s President Maia Sandu has claimed that Vladimir Putin is plotting a coup to overthrow her country’s government. She accused him of desiring attacks on government buildings, hostage-takings and other violent actions by groups of saboteurs in order to put the nation “at the disposal of Russia” and derail its hopes of joining the European Union.

President Sandu’s briefing comes a week after neighbouring Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country had intercepted plans by Russian secret services to destroy Moldova, claims that were later confirmed by Moldovan intelligence officials.

Sandu told reporters on Monday: “The plan for the next period involves actions with the involvement of diversionists with military training, camouflaged in civilian clothes, who will undertake violent actions, attack some state buildings, and even take hostages.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago, Moldova, a former Soviet republic of about 2.6million people, has sought to forge closer ties with its Western partners. Last June, it was granted EU candidate status, the same day as Ukraine.

Sandu said the alleged Russian plot’s purpose is “to overthrow the constitutional order, to change the legitimate power from (Moldova’s capital) Chisinau to an illegitimate one,” which she said “which would put our country at the disposal of Russia, in order to stop the European integration process”.

She defiantly vowed: “The Kremlin’s attempts to bring violence to our country will not succeed.”

Sandu said that between October and December Moldovan police and its Intelligence and Security Service, the SIS, have intervened in “several cases of organised criminal elements and stopped attempts at violence”.

Russia on Tuesday angrily rejected the Moldovan president’s claims.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed Sandu’s claims as “absolutely unfounded and unsubstantiated.”

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She said: “They are built in the spirit of classical techniques that are often used by the United States, other Western countries and Ukraine.

“First, accusations are made with reference to purportedly classified intelligence information that cannot be verified, and then they are used to justify their own illegal actions.”

Zakharova charged that Ukrainian authorities made up the claim about a purported Russian plan to destabilize Moldova in order to draw it into a confrontation with Russia. She argued that Moldovan authorities used “the myth about a Russian threat to distract Moldovan citizens’ attention from internal problems resulting from a disastrous social-economic course of the current administration and to step up the fight against dissent and political opponents.”

Zakharova insisted that Russia poses no threat to Moldova and hopes to develop mutually beneficial cooperation.

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Since Russian troops rolled into Ukraine nearly a year ago, Moldova, a former Soviet republic of about 2.6 million people, has sought to forge closer ties with its Western partners. Last June, it was granted EU membership candidate status, the same day as Ukraine.

In December, Moldova’s national intelligence agency warned that Russia could launch a new offensive this year with the aim of creating a land corridor through southern Ukraine to Moldova’s Moscow-backed breakaway region of Transnistria.

Transnistria broke away after a 1992 civil war but is not recognised by most countries. It extends roughly 400 kilometres (250 miles) from the eastern bank of the Dniester River to the country’s border with Ukraine. Russia has about 1,500 troops nominally as “peacekeepers” in the breakaway region.

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