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Was a Putin-backed plot thwarted in Russia’s neighbor?

A plot by Russia-backed groups to incite riots was foiled in Chisinau on Sunday during a demonstration against Moldova’s pro-Western government, Moldovan police said.

Viorel Cernauteanu stated at the press conference of the Moldovan national police chief:

some Russian citizens were promised $10,000 to incite mass riots to destabilize Moldova at a demonstration in the capital.

He did not say who the authorities said were the principals. According to Cernauteanu, seven people were detained in the case.

In addition, 54 protesters were arrested at the opposition demonstration, including 21 juveniles for “suspicious behavior” and possession of prohibited items, including a knife, the police chief said.

In recent weeks, there have been several anti-government protests in Moldova organized by the group Mozgalom a Népért. The latter is supported by the opposition SOR party, which is considered pro-Russian and has six representatives in the 101-member Moldovan legislature.

The participants of the movements demand, among other things, that the government of Chisinau fully undertakes to settle the residential energy bills incurred during the winter, and that Moldova “stays out of the war”. President Maia Sandu was once again called to resign.

The background to the police report is that in the past few days US intelligence warned:

Actors linked to Russia can use the protests due to high energy prices in the country, which has been a candidate for EU membership since last June, to spark an uprising.

Moldova has been struggling with severe energy problems since Moscow dramatically cut gas supplies to it.

According to the police, there were four inferno threats in the country on Sunday, including one that affected the international airport. These were also classified as actions aimed at destabilizing the state of 2.6 million inhabitants.

The border guard also said on Sunday that 182 foreigners were denied entry last week, including an “alleged representative” of the private Russian security company Wagner.

Cover image source: Getty Images