Russia Draws West’s Warning to Stop Meddling in Moldova Election

(Bloomberg) -- The US, UK and Canada accused Russia of interfering in Moldova’s presidential election by trying to put a pro-Kremlin candidate in office and block the country’s bid to join the European Union.

Most Read from Bloomberg

The three western governments also warned that Russia will attempt to incite riots in Moldova if the plan fails. They called on Moscow to abandon its efforts and respect Moldova’s sovereignty.

“The Kremlin relies on lies, deceit, corruption and disinformation to undermine sovereignty and democracy,” according to a joint statement released Thursday, during the Group of Seven leaders summit in Italy.

Russia is “currently supporting candidates for Moldova’s presidency and is exacerbating societal tensions,” the statement said. “These Russian actors are actively using disinformation and propaganda online, on the air, and on the streets to further their objectives.”

Moldova will hold a presidential election and a referendum on joining the EU on Oct. 20. Both votes are decisive for the country, a former Soviet republic wedged between Ukraine and Romania, as Russia is trying to bring it back into its sphere of influence.

President Maia Sandu, who is seeking a second term, has denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and charted a clear course for her country to join the EU. The formal accession talks are expected to start soon.

Sandu and other government officials have repeatedly warned Russia is attempting to sabotage or influence the votes. On Wednesday, the US sanctioned Evghenia Gutul, the leader of the autonomous Moldovan region of Gagauzia, for her ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The US, UK and Canada said they share Sandu’s concerns about the Kremlin’s use of criminal groups to finance political activities and undermine Moldova’s democratic institutions.”

“Part of these operations would include spreading lies about the incumbent president’s character and intentions, and about supposed electoral irregularities,” the statement said. “If Russia’s election meddling proves unsuccessful in Moldova, there is reason to believe Moscow will work to incite protests.”

The western government have “full confidence in Moldova’s ability to manage these threats,” and are sharing information with Moldovan partners to help them thwart Russia’s efforts.

“By revealing the Kremlin’s plot, we are making it clear to Moscow that we stand for free and fair elections and will not tolerate its attempts to meddle and undermine democratic processes,” the statement said.

--With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs.

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.