ISW: Kremlin wants to use Transnistria and Gagauzia to destabilize the situation in Moldova

The Kremlin is actively exploring avenues to exploit Transnistria and Gagauzia in conducting hybrid operations aimed at destabilizing Moldova in the lead-up to EU accession talks and presidential elections.

Recently, Evgenia Gutsul, the leader of the pro-Russian Moldovan autonomous region of Gagauzia, held discussions with Sergei Kiriyenko, Deputy Head of the Russian Presidential Administration, in Russia on 7 March. This meeting occurred concurrently with Moldovan authorities announcing impending court proceedings against Gutsul in a criminal case.

During her encounter with Kiriyenko, Gutsul appealed for assistance in several areas. She requested support in facilitating the Gagauz people’s access to accounts in Russian banks for “social projects,” urged the lifting of the Russian embargo on imports from Gagauzia, and sought assistance in negotiating favorable gas supply terms with Russian state energy giant Gazprom.

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Observers highlight the Kremlin’s intensified engagement with Gagauzia, paralleling its recent rhetorical emphasis on Moldova’s other pro-Russian region, the breakaway republic of Transnistria. This sustained interest indicates the Kremlin’s intent to leverage both regions to orchestrate hybrid operations aimed at sowing discord and exacerbating divisions within Moldova. These efforts are strategically timed to coincide with Moldova’s EU accession negotiations and the upcoming 2024 presidential elections, further underscoring the Kremlin’s disruptive intentions.

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