Moldovan President Hails U.S. Move To Sanction Moldovans, Russians Over Political Interference In Her Country

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Moldovan President Maia Sandu has welcomed a move by the United States to impose sanctions on several Moldovans and Russians over “systemic corruption” and their efforts to influence elections in Moldova.

The U.S. Treasury Department targeted nine individuals and 12 entities for sanctions on October 26, including two Moldovan oligarchs who are already widely recognized for corrupting Moldova’s political and economic institutions.

The sanctions also target individuals and entities who acted as “instruments of Russia’s global influence campaign,” which the Treasury Department said in a news release seeks to manipulate the United States and its allies and partners, including Moldova and Ukraine.

Those designated by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) include oligarch and former lawmaker Vladimir Plahotniuc, who the United States says exerted control over and manipulated key sectors of Moldova’s government.

Plahotniuc, a fugitive one-time leader of the Democratic Party who has been linked to the disappearance of $1 billion from Moldovan banks in 2014, maintained control over the country’s law enforcement apparatus to target political and business rivals, according to the Treasury Department.

Plahotniuc, who fled the country in 2019, also used Moldovan government functionaries as intermediaries to bribe law enforcement officials, used his control of the judicial system to manipulate the June 2018 mayoral election in Chisinau, and maintained control of key media outlets, the department said.

The U.S. State Department has already banned Plahotniuc and his family from obtaining visas to enter the United States.

Another individual sanctioned is wealthy populist leader Ilan Shor, who the Treasury Department said worked with Russians before the 2021 Moldovan parliamentary elections to create a political alliance aimed at controlling Moldova’s assembly and supporting legislation favorable to Russia.

Shor’s supporters marched through the former Soviet republic’s capital for the sixth consecutive Sunday this week to denounce Moldova’s pro-Western leaders. Shor was also convicted of fraud in 2017 in connection with the disappearance of the $1 billion. He lives in Israel.

“Large-scale corruption and the illegal financing of political parties in Moldova can be sanctioned after all! The United States have sanctioned 21 individuals and entities involved in acts of corruption that seriously prejudiced Moldova and its citizens,” Sandu wrote on her Facebook page.

Treasury also designated Igor Chayka, who it said worked with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to develop detailed plans to undermine Moldovan President Maia Sandu with the goal of returning Moldova to Russia’s sphere of influence.

Chayka is the son of Yury Chayka, a member of Russia’s Security Council who was designated by the United States for sanctions in April.

Igor Chayka brokered an alliance between supporters of Shor and the Moldovan Socialist Party (PSRM), represented by Igor Dodon, the former president of Moldova, who was recently indicted for corruption by Moldovan authorities.

Russia used Chayka’s companies as a front to funnel money to collaborating political parties in Moldova. Some of these illicit campaign funds were earmarked for bribes and electoral fraud, the Treasury said.

Among the remaining individuals designated for sanctions are Ivan Zavorotny, Yury Gudilin, Olga Grak, and Leonid Gonin.

Zavorotny serves on the board of many of Chayka’s companies. Gudilin, a political technologist and former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer, coordinated efforts in 2020 and 2021 to influence the outcome of Moldova’s elections, the Treasury said. Gudilin worked closely with Grak and Gonin on these efforts.

Although the efforts to influence Moldova’s 2020 and 2021 elections failed, the Kremlin continues to organize efforts to return a pro-Russian government to power, the Treasury said.

The sanctions designation freezes any assets or property interests owned by the officials in the United States and bars U.S. nationals from transactions involving them without special permission from the OFAC.

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