Moldova, a candidate country for EU membership with a population of 2.6 million people, is currently facing multiple crises, including an energy crisis, missile overflights connected to the war in Ukraine, and alleged Russian attempts to destabilize the country. On Monday, Moldova’s President Maia Sandu accused Russia of plotting to violently overthrow her government through saboteurs disguised as anti-government protesters, and also alleged that Moscow planned to carry out “attacks on state institutions and taking hostages.”

According to experts, the greatest benefit that Russia could gain from such actions would be to “create more uncertainties, and weaken the resolve” of Moldova and its European partners in their fight alongside Ukraine. While the prospect of an actual invasion is limited, the country needs to be “prepared for all eventualities” in the face of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who “does not seem to operate by our standards of rationality.”

Moldova’s parliament recently voted in a new government led by Dorin Recean after the surprise resignation of its former prime minister Natalia Gavrilita citing a lack of party support. “The government eroded due to several crises and had a negative image. There was a need for a reset,” said political analyst Valeriu Pasha of the Chisinau-based think tank Watchdog. Moldova became an official candidate for entry into the European Union in June 2022 and has welcomed tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Over the past year, Moldova has been faced with numerous anti-government protests organized by the party of fugitive pro-Russian oligarch Ilan Shor, who is a key player in Russia’s efforts to destabilize the country. Shor has been utilizing his monetary means of undeclared origin to carry out “destabilization, organize disinformation groups, and pay people to protest.” In October 2022, Israeli-born businessman-turned-populist politician Shor was sanctioned by Washington for interference in favor of Russia and corruption. Recent polls show that Shor’s party is averaging around 12 to 13%, representing a relatively significant support given that pro-Russian sentiments have been declining since the start of the conflict.