CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Moldova’s intelligence agency said Monday that two foreign nationals who posed as tourists have been expelled from the country and banned from returning for 10 years after they were caught carrying out “subversive actions” to destabilize Moldova.
The Intelligence and Security Service, SIS, said in a statement that the pair were trained in data and information gathering “for the implementation of a plan to destabilize the internal situation in the country,” to provoke what it described as “violent change” to Moldova’s constitutional order.
The SIS did not state when the foreign nationals arrived in Moldova, which countries they were from, or for whom they were allegedly working.
The agency said the pair carried out subversive actions that included investigating “various locations near government offices and critical infrastructure,” and that they were coordinated “from the shadows by a group of individuals affiliated with a conspiratorial network of overseas political technology and social engineering experts.”
The SIS added that the foreign nationals were actively monitoring and documenting social and political processes in Moldova, including protests it said were “organized in the capital by certain political forces.”
Last Sunday, several thousand anti-government protesters rallied in the capital, Chisinau, to demand the new government fully cover energy bills amid a cost-of-living crisis. They also demanded that pro-Western President Maia Sandu step down.
The protest was organized by a recently formed group called Movement for the People and supported by members of Moldova’s Russia-friendly Shor Party, which holds six seats in the former Soviet republic’s 101-seat legislature.
The SIS statement Monday also came after Sandu outlined on Feb. 13 what she claimed was an alleged plot by Moscow to overthrow the government in order to put the nation “at the disposal of Russia,” and to derail it from its course to one day join the European Union.
“Through violent actions, masked under protests of the so-called opposition, the change of power in Chisinau would be forced,” she said. “In carrying out the plan, the authors rely on several internal forces, but especially on criminal groups such as the Shor formation and all of its derivatives.”
Sandu said that the purported Russian plot envisioned attacks on government buildings, hostage-takings and other violent actions by groups of saboteurs. Russia strongly rejected those claims.
In June, Moldova, a country of about 2.6 million people, was granted EU candidate status, the same day as Ukraine.