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Foreign Interference in Moldova’s elections

Russian President Vladimir Putin with former Moldovan President Igor Dodon. Source: The Russian Presidential Press and Information Office. Licensed under CC BY 4.0 DEED

2024 represents one of the most important years for the international system, with elections in more than 50 states, and half of the world’s population eligible to vote (Ewe, 2024).


Moldova is one of these states. The presidential elections are taking place this year, and Moldova is in a sensitive situation due to regional geopolitics. While Moldova is trying to get closer to the European Union by consolidating its European values, Russia is trying to pull Moldova closer to its sphere of influence.


The tensions are increasing constantly between Moldova and Russia. For example, as Moldova declared its intention to leave the Commonwealth of Independent States, Russia intensified its foreign intervention in Moldova (Popusoi, 2023).


The elections for presidency of Moldova is another opportunity for Russia to influence the domestic policy of Moldova, as Russia was involved in similar destabilisation campaigns in recent years.


Therefore, we should anticipate that Russia will try to change the outcome of the elections  in order to establish a pro-Russian regime in Moldova.


Russia involvement in the domestic policy of Moldova


The current situation in Moldova is very similar to the Ukrainian one, as the Kremlin is conducting information operations against the Republic of Moldova similar to those before the invasion of Ukraine from 2014 and 2022, with the aim to create justification for a possible escalation in Moldova  (George Barros, 2024).


Russia is known for its involvement in the domestic policy of other states to some extent: either by trying to influence the state through hybrid warfare methods or by trying to place pro-Russian individuals in decision-making positions, especially in politics.


Moldova is one of the main targets of Russia’s foreign interference. According to Moldova’s security chief, Alexandru Musteata, Russia has spent almost 56 million dollars on destabilisation efforts in Moldova, of which 5 million dollars were spent on voter bribery and illegal financing of the Chance political party (Elsa Court, 2023). Moreover, the disinformation through deepfakes with high officials from Moldova is a constant in the politics. Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, was targeted several times through deepfakes. For example, a video of Maia Sandu was promoted on social media announcing her resignation from the elections while supporting the pro-Russian opponent (Wilson, 2023). 

These destabilisation campaigns make use of other digital tools too, in order to change the population’s perspective over the pro-European politicians in power. Last year, on social media a few Cameo videos were disseminated. In these videos appeared different celebrities that were reading texts in Russian, and in the videos the celebrities were claiming their support for the people of Moldova to overthrow Maia Sandu (Olari, 2024).


Another piece of leverage that Russia has on Moldova is Transnistria, for several reasons. Firstly, Russia has an unknown number of troops deployed in the region. These troops can be used anytime by Russia to start a conflict in Moldova and represent a very important threat to the domestic security of the state. Secondly, the separatist movement from Transnistria poses a threat for Moldova and its intention to join EU and NATO. If Transnistria breaks away, the Moldavian accession to EU and NATO will be halted.

At the moment, Transnistria is a hotspot in the East European Region. The media circulated information that Transnistria was about to announce its breakaway from Moldova at the gathering of "local elected officials of all levels", in Tiraspol. Despite these worries, instead of announcing its breakaway, Transnistria asked Russia for economic help and declared that Russia must defend Transnistria as more than 220.000 Russians are living in the region (Europa Liberă Moldova, 2024). Shortly after the Congress,  Christophe Lemoine, France's deputy foreign minister, declared that "Moldova is facing increasingly aggressive destabilisation attempts" (Reuters, 2024). Until Moldova's presidential elections that are expected to take place in the autumn of this year, there is a possibility that similar events and declarations will take place from the Transnistrian side in order to destabilise Moldova.


Who’s in for the 2024 elections:


Until now, there are still more possibilities regarding who will run for the presidency. At the time of writing, not all candidates’ names are known to the public.


Currently, the actual pro-European president of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, declared her intention to run for a second term at the presidential elections that are taking place this year, while declaring a preparation of a referendum on Moldova’s intention to join the European Union (Tanas, 2023). Since her first mandate as president, she worked hard to bring Moldova closer to the European Union and to distance the country from the influence of Russia. 


Meanwhile, Igor Dodon, who was the president of Moldova between 2016-2020, is still an important figure in the politics of Moldova. The ex-president was known for corruption and the fact that he was pro-Russian and tried to get Moldova closer to Russia. Currently, he is the leader of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) and declared that for now he doesn’t take into account the possibility of running again for the presidency of Moldova (Dolghii, 2023). Despite his declaration, the socialists declared that for the presidential elections they will form an alliance with other political parties to have a common candidate for a higher chance of winning the presidency (Scripnic, 2024).


Besides the elections, there are two more wildcards in game:


Firstly, the referendum on joining the European Union. This referendum could take place at the same time as the presidential elections due to the fact that the Parliament of Moldova changed the Electoral Code in late 2023 to make this possible (Călugăreanu, 2024). This referendum has the potential to separate Moldova more than ever from Russia.


Secondly, the rupture of Moldova from the Commonwealth of Independent States. In 2023, the Moldavian Parliament declared that the country would start the process of leaving the Commonwealth of Independent States (Dermenji, 2023). The rupture will most probably happen at the end of 2024 and will mark a new era for Moldova, as it will represent the definitive detachment of Moldova from the Russian world (Călugăreanu, 2024).


As the elections approach, it seems more and more likely that Russia will intensify its destabilisation efforts in response to the aforementioned events.  Russia will likely try to influence Moldova through several methods: disinformation & misinformation campaigns, political pressure, or even economic pressure. Moreover, it’s likely that Russia will try to destabilise Moldova’s elections or at least to slow down the process of elections and the upcoming referendums by exploiting the Transnistrian region.




[1] Călugăreanu, V. (2024, January 5). 2024, anul desprinderii definitive a Moldovei de lumea rusă . From DW: . Last accessed on 02.04.2024


[2] Dermenji, D. (2023, May 15). R. Moldova se va retrage din Adunarea interparlamentară a CSI . From Radio Europa Liberă Moldova: . Last accessed on 02.04.2024


[3] Dolghii, A.-M. (2023, December 19). Dodon nu va candida la alegerile prezidențiale? Socialistul: „Am fost deja președinte”. From NewsMaker: . Last accessed on 02.04.2024


[4] Europa Liberă Moldova. (2024, February 28). O adunare a liderilor de la Tiraspol cere parlamentului rus „măsuri pentru protejarea” regiunii transnistrene . From Radio Europa Liberă Moldova: . Last accessed on 30.03.2024


[5] Elsa Court, T. K. (2023, November 3). Moldova's security chief says Russia spent $55 million on destabilization campaign . From The Kyiv Independent: . Last accessed on 27.03.2024


[6] Ewe, K. (2024, December 28). The Ultimate Election Year: All the Elections Around the World in 2024 . From Time Magazine: . Last accessed on 23.03.2024


[7] George Barros, F. W. (2024, February 22). WARNING: Transnistria May Organize a Referendum on Annexation to Russia to Support Russian Hybrid Operation Against Moldova. From Institute for the Study of War: . Last accessed on 30.03.2024


[8] Olari, V. (2024, February 15). US celebrities unwittingly recruited to undermine Moldova’s president. From The Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab): . Last accessed on 30.03.2024


[9] Popusoi, C. (2023, May 18). Moldova Is Distancing Itself From The CIS, But Leaving Might Not Be So Easy . From RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty: . Last accessed on 23.03.2024


[10] Reuters. (2024, February 29). Europeans discuss further help to Moldova amid Russian destabilisation, says France . From Reuters: . Last accessed on 30.03.2024


[11] Scripnic, O. (2024, February 2). Socialiștii își întăresc forțele. La prezidențiale vor avea un candidat comun din partea mai multor partide (VIDEO). From Agora: . Last accessed on 02.04.2024


[12] Tanas, A. (2023, December 25). Moldova's pro-European president Sandu says she will seek second term . From Reuters: . Last accessed on 02.04.2024


[13] Wilson, A. (2023, December 8). Democracy under siege: Tackling Russian interference in Moldova . From European Concil on Foreign Relations: . Last accessed on 30.03.2024


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