Moscow Warns U.S. Embassy, Designates 3 NGOs As ‘Undesirable’

Moldovan President Maia Sandu warned that Moscow will not stop if it wins in Ukraine and threaten the rest of Europe as she signed a major bilateral defense and cooperation pact with France on March 7.

“If the aggressor is not stopped, he will continue and the front line will come closer and closer. Closer to us. Closer to you,” Sandu said after signing the deal in Paris with her French counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron.

“Europe must therefore present a united front. Aggression must be repelled by a strong force,” she added.

Macron in turn pledged France’s “unwavering support” to Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries, despite Moscow’s threat.

France and Moldova reached an initial agreement in September on the training of military personnel, regular defense consultations and intelligence sharing.

Sandu has said Moscow plans to undermine Moldova’s stability and throw the southeastern European nation off its path to European integration, ahead of presidential elections and a referendum on European Union membership.

A report from the Moldovan Intelligence and Security Service (SIS) has issued a stark warning about Russia’s plans to derail Moldova’s attempts to shake off Moscow’s decades-long influence and move closer to the West.

Before leaving for Paris, Sandu said: “Moscow wants to destabilize the situation in Moldova, Moscow wants to intimidate Moldovan citizens, especially since we may have a referendum this year on Moldova’s accession to the EU – at least that is my proposal and I hope the Moldovan parliament will support this.”

The pro-Western Sandu, under whom Moldova made an abrupt turn from Russia to Europe, is set for re-election later this year after suffering a 2020 defeat to Moscow-backed incumbent Igor Dodon.

Sandu has previously indicated that she would prefer the presidential election and the EU membership referendum to be held together. Moldova received an invitation to open accession negotiations with the 27-member bloc in 2022.

She said Moldova is militarily protected from a possible Russian attack by its eastern neighbor Ukraine, which has been fighting Russian aggression for the past two years.

“Moscow cannot reach Moldova, primarily because Ukraine is our shield and Ukraine is resisting [Russia’s aggression] and will continue to resist. And second, because Moldova has powerful friends and has chosen to stand on the side of the free world,” Sandu said.

Ahead of the visit, the French presidency said in a statement, providing further details, that France will reiterate its support “for the independence, sovereignty and security of the Republic of Moldova, in the context of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”

Presenting his report on March 5, SIS chief Alexandru Musteata presented said His office has come into possession of “certain information” about actions planned for this year and next year that would jeopardize Moldova’s accession to the EU and bring the country back under Russia’s influence.

“The details point to strategies for 2024 and 2025 that involve supporting pro-Russian political actors linked to the intelligence services, organized crime groups and the Kremlin leadership,” Musteata said.

France is also hosting an online meeting of EU defense and foreign ministers on March 7 to discuss increasing support for Ukraine, but also for Moldova, which France says is facing “increasing destabilization movements” from Russia.

With Sandu at the helm, neutral Moldova also strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, firmly aligning itself with Kiev while strengthening ties with its other neighbor, EU and NATO member Romania, with whom Moldova shares a common language and shares history.

SIS chief Musteata said his agency’s intelligence services are suggesting that Moscow would use tools from its old playbook to sow instability in Moldova.

“We predict that attempts will be made to provoke various social and political crises, provoke clashes and incite inter-ethnic hatred that would lead to security crises in the Gagauz autonomy or the Transdniester region,” Musteata said.

Semi-autonomous Gagauzia is mainly populated by ethnically Turkish Gagauz people who speak Russian and have adopted Russian Orthodox Christianity.

The Moscow-backed Transdniester declared independence from Moldova in 1990 and waged a war with Chisinau that was turned in the separatists’ favor by Russian forces still stationed in the region. The country recently appealed to Moscow for aid to offset what it says is pro-Western pressure from Moldova.

The call, which appeared to have been largely orchestrated by the Kremlin itself, set off alarm bells in Western capitals as a prelude to a possible ‘union’ of the separatist region with Moscow.

“Moldova is facing increasingly aggressive attempts at destabilization,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Christophe Lemoine said on February 29.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

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