Russia summons Moldovan ambassador, denounces ‘unfriendly actions’

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia’s foreign ministry summoned the Moldovan ambassador on Wednesday and issued a protest against “unfriendly acts” in the latest of a series of jabs exchanged between the Kremlin and the ex-Soviet state’s pro-European authorities.

A ministry statement denounced the “systematic character” of Moldovan actions it said were directed against Russian citizens. These, it said, included “politically motivated persecution” of Russian and Russian-language journalists.

“Moldova’s leadership continues to make aggressive anti-Russian declarations,” the statement said Moldovan ambassador Lilian Darie was told.

Since taking power in 2020, President Maia Sandu has moved to abandon the Soviet legacy of the country lying between Ukraine and Romania and move it into the European mainstream.

She has denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and accused Moscow of trying to interfere in last November’s local elections in Moldova and of trying to foment a coup to remove her.

Moldova’s parliament last month approved a new defence strategy identifying Russia and corruption as the two biggest threats to the country’s security. The EU last month agreed to open talks on membership with Moldova and Ukraine.

Igor Zaharov, press secretary for Moldova’s Foreign Ministry, said officials barred entry to Moscow included a member of the presidential staff, government officials and journalists.

“Moldova maintains its firm commitment to act against foreign interference and any actions destabilising Moldova’s security and sovereignty,” Zaharov said in a statement.

Moldova, he said, regretted the Russian action, “but it is important to note that such measures have long become a routine phenomenon for Russian authorities.”

Russia similarly barred a number of Moldovan nationals

last November, particularly in response to reporting conducted by Russian media in the country.

Moscow authorities last month also banned imports of Moldovan fruit and vegetables, key exports for one of Europe’s poorest countries.

Moldovan authorities earlier on Wednesday extended a ban imposed last year on 12 television channels, saying the media outlets engaged in “manipulation, disinformation and promotion of a foreign agenda”.

Moldovan authorities blocked several politicians representing a banned party with pro-Russian views from taking part in last November’s local elections.

(Reporting by Reuters and by Alexander Tanas in Chisinau; Editing by Sandra Maler and Ron Popeski)