Five Russian diplomats have been declared persona non grata in Moldova, according to the Moldovan news outlet Publika, quoting Anna Samson, Press Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova.
The Russian embassy told RIA Novosti that they were examining a message about the declaring of five Russian diplomats as persona non grata, thus confirming its receipt.
According to Interfax, the diplomats were ordered to leave the country within 24 hours. Russian Ambassador to Moldova Farit Mukhametshin confirmed this information without mentioning the names of the expelled Foreign Ministry personnel.
One of the deported diplomats is Alexander Grudin, an assistant to the military attaché of the Russian Embassy in Moldova, reported Interfax. In March 2017, Moldovan intelligence agents accused Yuri Bolboceanu, a former member of the country’s parliament, of relaying “secret information” to Grudin. On March 20, Bolboceanu was arrested and detained for 30 days. He was charged under Article 337 (treason against the country) and Article 338 (espionage) of the Criminal Code of Moldova.
Moldovan President Igor Dodon condemned the expulsion of the Russian diplomats. In his Facebook page, he wrote that the government’s decision is “outrageous” and “directed against the steps of the head of state to restore relations with 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 dialogue has finally been found between the president and the Kremlin,” concluded the Moldovan leader.
Later, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova commented on the decision of the Moldovan government. She noted that “the situation is paradoxical, but indicative.” “Obviously, this has nothing to do with the work of Russian diplomats, but demonstrates the development of the situation in Moldova,” Zakharova concluded.
Igor Dodon took office as President of Moldova on December 23, 2016. In his election campaign, he openly announced plans to restore a strategic partnership with Russia. At the same time, the Moldovan government is headed by Pavel Filip, a member of the Democratic Party of Moldova. Democrats are in favor of integration with the European Union.
“This step is a clear result of the conflict between pro-Russian President Dodon and the pro-European government, a consequence of the protracted dual power in the country,” First Deputy Chairman of the Committee on CIS Affairs of the Russian State Duma Konstantin Zatulin told Russian news agency RBC. He explained that Dodon could not have known about this decision and could not have influenced it, since his power is limited.
The deputy pointed out that Russia has the right to respond to the unfriendly step by taking a similar or a symmetric action, but in some cases – as with the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the U.S. at the end of last year - Russia may not take such action so as not to aggravate the diplomatic crisis.