Moldova expels 45 Russian diplomats and embassy staff over ‘attempts to destabilise’ country

11 months ago 12

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Moldova has expelled 45 Russian diplomats and embassy staff members in Chisinau, citing Moscow’s "unfriendly actions" amid further deteriorating relations over the war in neighbouring Ukraine.

“We agreed on the need to limit the number of accredited diplomats from Russia, so that there are fewer people trying to destabilise the Republic of Moldova,” foreign minister Nicu Popescu said at a cabinet meeting.

The foreign ministry said the decision was based on "numerous unfriendly actions" towards Moldova, "which are not related to the diplomatic mandate, as well as attempts to destabilise" the country.

Russia has been given the 15 August deadline to cut its embassy staff to 25 from the strength of 80 currently.

“For many years we have been the object of hostile Russian actions and policies. Many of them were made through the embassy,” Mr Popescu said.

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the move was just another step towards “bilateral relations", and said the "unjustified and unfriendly actions ... will not go unanswered".

The Kremlin said Moldova’s decision is regretted while accusing its accused leadership of encouraging “Russophobia”.

“Unfortunately, Chișinău is deliberately driving our relations into a very miserable state,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Once part of the Soviet Union, the relations between Russia and Moldova reached a new low after president Maia Sandu opposed Russia for invading Ukraine and accused Russian leadership of hatching a plan to overthrow her government.

The latest move comes just days after two local media outlets published an investigative report accusing the Russian embassy in the capital of spying with their dozens of satellite dishes and antennas installed in the building.

The joint investigation was published by the Russian investigative media site Insider and Moldova’s Jurnal TV channel. It said that 28 antennas installed on the roof of the embassy and an adjacent building could have been used for spying activities.

Russia denied the claims as “a fantasy which has nothing to do with reality”.

It prompted Moldova to summon Russia’s ambassador to the country.

Moldova‘s government spokesman, Daniel Voda, said: "In circumstances where employees are not involved in promoting bilateral relations, it becomes obvious that their diplomatic and administrative-technical representation is excessive.”

Moldova shares its borders with both Romania and Ukraine. It is one of the poorest European countries which has been heavily impacted by the war in Ukraine.

It has accused Russia of backing separatist groups which control Transnistria, a breakaway territory in Moldova witnessing conflict since 1990s.

The invasion has put a strain on its resources and services as several Ukrainian refugees arrived in the country to escape the fighting.

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