Russian plot to topple Moldova’s president 'being run from UK’: reports
A Russian plan to overthrow the democratically elected government of Moldova is being directed from Britain by a former Moldovan head of police, according to a report for the UK authorities, “The Times” newspaper has reported.
Chișinău, the capital of Moldova.Photobank MD from Chisinau, Moldova, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
The study alleging the plot has been provided to Britain’s Foreign Office by a group of Moldovan and British lawyers, according to The Times.
The document states that the Russian operation is being orchestrated by Moldova’s former police chief Gheorghe Cavcaliuc, who left his country for the UK in 2020 when pro-Western anti-corruption campaigner Maia Sandu was elected president, Poland’s wnp.pl website reported.
Cavcaliuc had ties to the pro-Russian incumbent Igor Dodon, who lost the election to Sandu, according to wnp.pl.
He is also accused of illegally amassing a fortune far exceeding his official income, The Times reported.
The allegations in the report were backed by the government of Moldova, which said it had requested the extradition of Cavcaliuc, according to the UK broadsheet.
Russia threatens Moldova
Meanwhile, on Monday the Moscow envoy of Transnistria, a pro-Russian separatist region of Moldova, urged the Kremlin to deploy thousands of Russian “peacekeepers” to the country, wnp.pl reported.
It followed a threat in February by Russian lawmaker Sergei Mironov, who has close links to both Dodon and the Kremlin, to extend Vladimir Putin’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine to Moldova, The Times noted.
Earlier this year, the Sandu administration said it had obtained intelligence about a Kremlin plot to stage a coup and capture the airport in the Moldovan capital of Chișinău, wnp.pl reported.
The former Moldovan police chief Cavcaliuc is a key player in these efforts, according to Radu Marian, an MP from Sandu’s PAS Party.
Marian added in an interview with The Times: “He [Cavcaliuc] has used his connections from the past to recruit former police officers to a paramilitary group ‘protecting’ fake demonstrations against the government.”
Efforts to extradite Cavcaliuc to Moldova
A group of Moldovan lawmakers, including Marian, visited the UK in April to meet their British counterparts and urge British action against Cavcaliuc, The Times reported.
Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence committee, was among the UK MPs who received the Moldovan delegation and said he found it “baffling that Gheorghe Cavcaliuc has still not been extradited back to Moldova,” according to wnp.pl.
Ellwood said: “If we are serious in our support for European democracy then it can’t be limited to Ukraine alone.”
Meanwhile, Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement: “It is long-standing policy that we will neither confirm nor deny that an extradition request has been received or made,” as quoted by The Times.
Russia seeks to destabilise Moldova
Moldova, a landlocked country with over 2.6 million inhabitants in the northeastern corner of the Balkan region of Europe, is regarded as the continent’s poorest state, according to news outlets.
Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Moldova has become one of the major destinations for Ukrainian refugees, wnp.pl reported.
Meanwhile, Russia is constantly seeking to destabilise Moldova, not least via the eastern breakaway region of Transnistria, according to news reports.
Formally part of Moldova, Transnistria is in effect a Russian-backed self-proclaimed country with a capital in Tiraspol, recognised only by Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both regarded by the United Nations as Russian-occupied parts of Georgia, according to officials.
Russia has stationed several thousand troops in Transnistria, wnp.pl reported.