Russia spent more than €11.4mn to support the former head of state and current leader of the Socialist Party (PSRM) Igor Dodon ahead of the presidential election in Moldova last autumn in order to “strengthen its influence in Central Europe”, German publication Bild reported, quoting leaked documents. Dodon eventually lost the vote to pro-EU candidate Maia Sandu.
No matter whether the accusations are grounded or false — the PSRM called the report slander and threatened the publication with a lawsuit — they reflect the radicalisation of the confrontation between Sandu’s Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) and the Socialist-Communist bloc in the upcoming July 11 general election.
Bild published a document, allegedly the bill for Dodon's election campaign, which the publication received from its sources in the German government that were investigating the Kremlin's influence on elections in other countries.
The biggest slice of the €11.4mn electoral bill, namely €4mn, went to Dodon himself, and other candidates seen by Russia as friendly, who supposedly used the money directly, according to the report.
“Four million were used as bribes for 'friendly candidates' who were supposed to pursue the Kremlin's policy in Moldova after the elections, €528 thousand went to propaganda — or ‘media projects’, €393 thousand to foreign election observers — in order to ignore irregularities, €500 thousand were allocated for ‘the electoral commission's processing of the results’ — the last trump card in the Kremlin's sleeve if its own candidate loses," according to Bild quoting the leaked documents.
After the article in Bild was reported in the Moldovan media, the PSRM, headed by Dodon, issued a refutation.
“We express our outrage at the slanderous fabrications contained in the publication of the German newspaper Bild and spread by many Moldovan media that support Maia Sanda and the party under her control,” the party said, stressing that Dodon's election campaign was funded in accordance with Moldovan laws.
“Dodon has not received a dime foreign assistance for his election campaign. PSRM will file a lawsuit against the German newspaper Bild and all the Moldovan media that took part in the dissemination of this blatant slander,” the PSRM said.
This is not the first time allegations of financial support from Russia have surfaced. In November 2020, before the presidential election, the leader of Our Party, Renato Usatii, filed an application with the Central Election Commission (CEC) with a request to cancel Dodon’s registration as an independent presidential candidate, accusing the latter of having received more than €11mn from Russia for the pre-election campaign.
The press service of Dodon's campaign headquarters called Usatii's statements a lie and threatened to sue him as well.
Ahead of the July general election, while Moldova's development partners, including the European Union and several of its members (Romania and Poland particularly), have expressed open support for Sandu and her party ahead of the vote, Dodon and the Socialist-Communist bloc are making use of the administrative apparatus mostly controlled by the acting Socialist government.
Moldova's Central Electoral Bureau, even after the Court of Appeal summoned it to open 190 voting stations abroad, refused to observe the ruling and increased the number of stations to only 150, in a move that could cost the PAS thousands of votes possibly critical for its final score. On the other hand, Sandu is campaigning openly on the side of the PAS, although her position as president of the country requires political neutrality.