Putin spies recruiting boxers and football hooligans as Moldova braces for protests | World | News

Moldova increases security following map ‘mistake’ has been made aware that pro-Russian forces are planning on causing mass disruption in Moldova’s capital, Chișinău.

The protests are due to take place on Sunday, May 7, and are believed to have been orchestrated by the Kremlin-backed President of the Șor Party, Ilan Shor.

Footage posted to social media allegedly shows rows of buses packed with protestors and headed to the capital being stopped by Moldavian police.

Recently, Andrian Cheptonar, an MP for the ruling Party of Action and Solidarity, shared with adverts paid for by Mr Shor that called Moldavian citizens to rise up and “overthrow” the government.

He said the country’s security and surveillance agencies had been keeping a watchful eye on the activities of such pro-Russian forces after it discovered that groups of men had been trained to incite violence against the government in Turkey and Transnistria, the latter an unrecognised breakaway state inside Moldova.

READ MORE: Furious Wagner chief loses it in deranged rant at Putin was shown this advert calling on Moldavians to ‘overthrow’ the government (Image: Andrian Cheptonar)

Intelligence disclosed the sorts of people pro-Vladimir Putin groups were trying to recruit in order to cause disruption, which included boxers and football hooligans. He said the targeted groups were mostly made up of young men wanting to earn quick and easy money.

He told “We understand that the pro-Russian forces are behaving like they have nothing to lose. So, most probably, they won’t stop until they will be forced to.

“They won’t stop until every young man that has been trained to initiate violence, that accepts money to get involved in these kinds of activities, will be known by police. These sorts of people in Moldova will be advised by the police not to get involved and to understand the criminal risks of their behaviour.

“Until it reaches a point where there is no one left on the market to accept money for this behaviour, they [pro-Russian agitators] will be looking for this kind of person. They’ve tried also to bring some boxers and some football supporters from abroad. But again, on risk assessment, we forbid their entry into the country even if it does generate some nerves and our relationship with other countries. But it’s the security of the state that is on the table and we cannot take risks.”

Protestors in Chisinau

Anti-government protestors gather in Chișinău, March 12 (Image: GETTY)

The protests in their current form began in September 2022, when around 20,000 turned out to demand that the country’s recently elected and pro-Western government resign.

On October 13, the government decided to ban rallies that block traffic lanes, transport links or access to roads to public institutions during the week. Protests were permitted but only on weekends and for a maximum of four hours.

A day later, several people took to the streets, again protesting against the government, with several detained.

The following week, on October 18, the Russian National Liberation Movement launched a campaign in Gagauzia — an autonomous territory in Moldova — to “recognise as illegal the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the restoration of the borders of the former Soviet Union in accordance with the results of World War 2″.

Gagauzia inside Moldova

Gagauzia is an autonomous territory inside Moldova’s borders, outlined in red (Image: Google Maps)

More protests happened in November, with 50,000 people turning out in Chișinău, the majority of them supporters of the Șor Party. Thousands of anti-government protestors returned to the capital’s streets later that month.

The protestors are believed to be paid cash sums by Mr Shor and his party. Many who have to travel from outside Chișinău are provided with free transportation into the city by the party.

On December 7, 2022, boosted by the protests, Mr Shor asked Moldavian President Maia Sandu to nominate him as Prime Minister of Moldova — even after the US Department of Treasury had sanctioned him for his association with the Russian Government months before. His request was met with silence.

In 2019, Mr Shor fled Moldova for Israel after he was accused of stealing $1billion (£804,000) from Moldova’s banks 10 years ago. He was sentenced in absentia to 15 years for his role in April.

Reacting to the news in a social media post, he said the verdict was politically motivated “revenge for the protest movement” and that it was “in violation of all legal provisions.”

He wrote: “I am not going to comply with it and I assure you that it will be annulled the day after the change of the current regime. This decision nor any other will prevent me from moving forward and fighting to the end until we will remove the bandits from power.”

Before Sunday, May 7, the most recent anti-government protests came on March 12, when around 4,500 protestors descended on Chișinău to again call for the government’s resignation.

By that time, Mr Cheptonar said, Moldavian authorities were fully prepared for the Russian-backed demonstrations, with police confining the day’s action to a district far from government buildings and arresting 54 people.

Marina Tauber, head of Șor’s, told the gathering: “Why do Moldova’s Western partners support Maia Sandu, yet shut their eyes when people are kept away from the government to express their needs? Can you see this in any other European country?”

On May 1, Ms Tauber was arrested at the Chișinău Airport while trying to flee the country after being charged with corruption.

The countries currently under threat from Putin

Moldova is one of the high-risk countries under threat from Russia (Image: UK)

Moldova’s anti-corruption police say she is involved in the illegal funding of the party, whose main source of income comes from Mr Shor.

As Moldova struggles to grapple with domestic and foreign threats — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in February said Moldova may have Ukraine‘s fate — Mr Cheptonar’s party is desperately trying to build stronger relations with the EU.

Shortly after Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine last year, Moldova applied for EU membership, with the European Commission formally recommending the European Council grant its candidacy status in June 2022.

Mr Cheptonar said his country is under no illusion that full membership will come any time soon. He explained: “We can’t think that we will be accepted so soon. But we are extremely determined to change our legislation to implement reforms in order to become truly aligned to EU standards.”

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