US sanctions Russians over plot to destabilize Moldovan government

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From second left to right, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger, Moldova’s President Maia Sandu, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Slovenia’s Prime Minister Robert Golob, and Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic attend a commemorative event on anniversary of the liberation of the territories from the Russian troops in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, March 31, 2023. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP) AP

US sanctions Russians over plot to destabilize Moldovan government

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The United States has announced sanctions against seven members of a Russian intelligence-linked group for its alleged role in attempting to destabilize the Moldovan government.

Throughout February and March of this year, several thousand protesters participated in anti-government rallies in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau. The Russia-connected group sought to capitalize on these protests to “seize the Moldovan Government House,” according to a statement from the Treasury Department.

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“These actors are a part of Russia’s global information operations that have also targeted the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and countries in the Balkans,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Monday.

“These operatives provoke, train and oversee groups in democratic countries that conduct anti-government protests, rallies, marches, and demonstrations with the goal of overthrowing democratically elected leaders and creating or exacerbating instability,” he added.

The sanctions, part of the U.S.’s larger operations to combat actors seeking to destabilize Moldova, targeted Konstantin Prokopyevich Sapozhnikov, the leader of the group; Yury Yuryevich Makolov; Gleb Maksimovich Khloponin; Svetlana Andreyevna Boyko; Vasily Viktorovich Gromovikov; Anna Travnikova; and Aleksey Vyacheslavovich Losev and his company Perko Julleuchter.

“The sanctions imposed today shine a light on Russia’s ongoing covert efforts to destabilize democratic nations,” Brian Nelson, the undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said. “Russia’s attempted influence operations exploit the concerns of the citizens of these countries, to destabilize legitimately elected governments for Moscow’s own interests.”

National Security Council coordinator John Kirby told reporters in March that Russia was attempting an often-used playbook to destabilize a foreign nation, with “the eventual goal of seeing a more Russian-friendly administration in the capital.”

He warned at the time that pro-Russian actors will stage and use protests “as a basis to foment a manufactured insurrection against the Moldovan government” while other Russian actors “provide training and help manufacture demonstrations in Moldova.”

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Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, said earlier this year that she believed the Kremlin was planning “a series of actions involving saboteurs who have undergone military training and are disguised as civilians to carry out violent actions, attacks on government buildings, and hostage-taking.”

Months earlier, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned nine people and a dozen entities, including oligarchs it said were “widely recognized for capturing and corrupting Moldova’s political and economic institutions and those acting as instruments of Russia’s global influence campaign.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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