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Moldova reports 'unprecedented' Russian interference in leadup to 2 major votes

Moldova's Intelligence and Security Services warned Tuesday against "unprecedented" interference by Russia in the leadup to a European Union referendum and presidential vote.

Moldova’s national intelligence agency warned Tuesday against "unprecedented" Russian interference as the country gears up for a referendum on joining the European Union and a presidential election.

The Intelligence and Security Services, or SIS, released a report saying it has gathered data indicating Russia plans to launch vast hybrid attacks against Moldova through 2024-2025 to try to bring the former Soviet republic back under Moscow's influence.

Head of the SIS, Alexandru Musteata, said in a press conference that Russia sought to undermine the democratic polling this year in the eastern European country.

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"There is information about an attempt to compromise the referendum on European integration, the presidential elections, to denigrate institutions and candidates who will promote the idea of European integration," Musteata said.

The report said part of Russia’s strategy would be the "extensive use of social networks," such as Telegram and TikTok, to back pro-Moscow political figures, create socio-political and economic crises, encourage anti-government protests, as well as provoke "social clashes to incite inter-ethnic hatred" on top of sprawling disinformation campaigns.

Musteata named pro-Russia Moldovan oligarch Ilan Shor as a central figure in Russia’s fresh campaign. Shor, the head of the outlawed Russia-friendly Shor Party, was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in jail last year on fraud and money laundering charges.

"According to the data, Shor’s main task for 2024 is to compromise the results of the (EU) referendum," the SIS head said. "Protests will continue to be used as a tool to undermine trust in the current government."

Moldova, which neighbors Ukraine and Romania, was granted EU candidate status in 2022 and is scheduled to hold a nationwide referendum on joining the 27-nation bloc. The presidential election will follow in the fall.

Last week, officials in Moldova’s Russia-backed breakaway region of Transnistria appealed to Moscow for protection against economic pressure, as tensions escalated with Moldova’s pro-Western government over new customs duties implemented in the New Year.

Since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Moldova’s relations with Moscow have soured significantly. Moldova’s leaders have routinely accused Russia of conducting campaigns to try to destabilize the country.

There was no immediate comment from Russian officials.

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