Moldovan police said on Sunday they had arrested members of a network suspected of being orchestrated by Moscow to destabilize the small former Soviet country when anti-government demonstrations began.
Police chief Viorel Cernauteanu told media that 25 men were questioned after Saturday night’s search, seven of whom were detained.
Agents successfully infiltrated a group led by a Moldovan-Russian, he said, adding that prosecutors recorded 10 hours of video and audio.
“People came from Russia with very specific training roles,” the official added.
Moldovan officials said they acted after “receiving information about the organization of the Russian special services, which is taking actions to destabilize our territory through demonstrations.”
The party of fugitive pro-Russian oligarch Ilhan Shor has again mobilized against pro-European governments in recent weeks amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Chisinau.
He has organized several rallies where he is suspected of paying attendees.
– “We came in peace” –
Brawls erupted at protests in Chisinau on Sunday afternoon.
Demonstrators gathered in front of the parliament building and tried to reach the government building a few hundred meters away, but were stopped by the police.
Police said they had detained 54 protesters, including 21 minors, “with suspicious behavior and prohibited items” for identification and testing.
The bombing scare caused chaos at Chisinau airport in the morning, but border controls were tightened ahead of the rally.
A total of 182 foreigners were barred from entering the country this week, according to police, including “possible members” of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner.
The slogan of the protest was “Call on the government to pay the bills.”
Participants spoke of the high cost of living and accused the government and President Maia Sandu of not doing enough to help them and not listening to their grievances.
“Do you know how many times we were stopped by the police on our way here? We are supposed to be a democracy. We came here peacefully. We have no knives or bombs.” One protester told AFP.
– “Russian plan” –
People shouted ‘Overthrow the dictatorship’ and ‘Overthrow Maia Sandu’.
Organizers also accused Sandu of trying to drag Moldova into a war in Ukraine.
The White House on Friday accused Russia of trying to destabilize the 2.6 million Romanian-speaking country that borders Ukraine in order to install a pro-Russian government.
The US said it had stepped up intelligence-sharing with Moldovan leaders “so they could investigate further” and “thwart the Russian plans.”
Moldova, formerly part of Russia’s sphere of influence, is now governed by an authority firmly focused on European integration.
But Chisinau has to deal with the separatist areas of Transnistria. Officials on Thursday urged the United Nations to investigate plans to attack officials accused of being responsible for Kiev.
Ukraine’s SBU Security Service immediately condemned the allegations as “a provocation orchestrated by the Kremlin.”
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/moldova-smashes-promoscow-subversion-ring/news-story/dc2be291dd3f68cdf05535ed00e5ff22 Moldova crushes pro-Moscow subversion ring