Moldova’s EU-leaning government has expelled five Russian diplomats, in a move censured by the ex-Soviet state’s pro-Moscow President Igor Dodon as “outrageous.”
Spokeswoman for Moldova’s Foreign and European Integration Ministry Ana Samson confirmed on Monday that the Russian diplomats will be expelled, but she did not identify them or explain the grounds behind the measure.
Dodon, however, censured the announcement, saying in a Facebook post that “the government has taken an outrageous step regarding our strategic partner, Russia.”
“This has most likely been done on orders from the West, maybe even from across the ocean, by those who are worried that a constructive and effective dialog has finally been found between the presidency and the Kremlin,” he added.
The Moldovan president further warned against the “negative consequences” of such a measure and said, “I am deeply outraged of this unfriendly step by the representatives of the Moldovan diplomatic corps and I categorically condemn it.”
Moldova has been ruled by a succession of pro-EU administrations, but Dodon’s election in late 2016 indicated the voters’ loss of trust in their leaders.
Dodon won the presidential race on a promise to put the brakes on seven years of close ties with the EU after a massive corruption scandal sapped the popularity of his pro-Brussels rivals.
He declared earlier this year that he intends to cancel Moldova’s EU association agreement and re-establish relations with Moscow, a move slammed by the country’s pro-Western politicians who hold a majority in the parliament and control the government.
In March, Moldova’s government accused Russian intelligence authorities of intimidating Moldovan lawmakers, intelligence officials and pro-European politicians visiting Russia in recent months.
The Kremlin has yet to formally react to the expulsions, but Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said there would “of course be a response” from the government and that “it will be very hard.”
He further described the move as a “gross provocation.”
Moldova is Europe’s poorest nation that borders Ukraine and EU member Romania, with which it has close linguistic and cultural ties, but remains heavily reliant on Russian energy supplies.