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Russia Accused Of Harassing Moldovan Politicians With 'Fabricated' Lawsuits

Vlad Plahotniuc, leader of Moldova's ruling Democratic Party, was charged in absentia by Russian investigators this week.
Vlad Plahotniuc, leader of Moldova's ruling Democratic Party, was charged in absentia by Russian investigators this week.

The head of Moldova's ruling party has accused Russian authorities of harassing him and other party officials with bogus lawsuits.

Vlad Plahotniuc was charged in absentia by Russian investigators this week with orchestrating the attempted murder of a banker in London in 2012, according to Russian media outlets.

In comments to Reuters on December 7, Plahotniuc said that Russian officials are trying to frame him to put him on international law enforcement watch lists.

Plahotniuc said he expected further retaliation after the Moldovan parliament on December 7 passed a law to prevent the dissemination of foreign "fake news" on Russian-language and other channels.

Russian security services are "falsely accusing us of ethnic, political, and ideological hatred, murder, theft, virtually anything they could think of," Plahotniuc said by e-mail to Reuters through a representative.

"They have seen their attempts failing so far, thus, they already went on with tougher and more explicit abuses," he said.

The Russian news agency Interfax reported that Moldova's ruling party issued a statement on December 6 condemning Russia's "politically motivated persecution" of party members with "fabricated" lawsuits, and calling on the Moldovan Foreign Ministry to protest the "abuses."

The Russian Foreign Ministry and Prosecutor-General's Office did not immediately respond to the accusations.

Maria Zakharova, the ministry's spokeswoman, at a briefing last month accused the Moldovan government and lawmakers of "some openly anti-Russian actions," including hampering attempts by Moldova's president to forge closer ties with Moscow.

"Nevertheless, Russia is open to long-term development of friendly, partner relations with a neutral Moldova, relations based on long-standing historical ties between our peoples," she said.

Ex-Soviet Moldova is politically divided between a pro-Western government, which favors closer integration with the European Union, and pro-Russian President Igor Dodon.

Tensions have been growing between Moldova and Russia this year.

The Chisinau government in March accused Russia's security apparatus of seeking to derail a Moldovan probe into a Russian-led money-laundering operation by harassing Moldovan officials as they traveled to or through Russia.

Plahotniuc told Reuters that behavior continued in recent months because of ongoing investigations into the case known locally as the "Russian Laundromat."

Russia's behavior "toward my colleagues and me is an explicit act of blackmail and political harassment...abusive and illegal behavior, which will not change our commitment to the democratic and European development of Moldova," he told Reuters.

The Moldovan parliament adopted a bill on December 7 aimed at combating foreign propaganda, banning television channels from airing news and analytical programs from countries that have not signed a European broadcasting agreement, including Russia.

"Nobody is banning any channels from any particular country. This is not a question of banning channels from broadcasting, but about banning specific programs whose purpose is manipulation, propaganda, and disinformation," the author of the bill, Serdjiu Sirbu, told parliament.

Dodon said he would not sign the bill into law.

"Under no circumstances will I sign a bill limiting the broadcasting of Russian TV channels in the republic. This document contradicts all the European norms of freedom of speech, as well as the Constitution of Moldova," he said.

With reporting by Reuters, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service, and Interfax
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