Moldova asks for EU sanctions against its oligarchs

Moldova asks for EU sanctions against its oligarchs
Moldovan Foreign Minister Nico Popescu at the EU Foreign Affairs Council roundtable on February 20. / European Council
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest February 21, 2023

Moldova asked the European Union on February 20 to impose sanctions on Moldovan “oligarchs and corrupt politicians” accused of helping Russia destabilise the country.

The call follows allegations that Russia is plotting to topple the pro-EU government in Chisinau, based on intelligence from Ukraine. Last week, Chisinau accused Russia of plotting a coup in Moldova.

"It is not the first time that Moldova faces such situations, since last year," Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu emphasised as reported by AFP, during a meeting in Brussels with his counterparts from the European Union on February 20.

Popescu asked his EU counterparts to place the "oligarchs and corrupt politicians who, together with Russia, are trying to destabilise Moldova" on a blacklist of people banned from entering the EU and whose bank assets are frozen by the 27.

His appeal was backed by Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu. "We must put these oligarchs, who are proxies of Russia, on the EU sanctions list and we must bring increased support to Ukraine in terms of security through the European Instrument for Peace," said Reinsalu.

After a Magnitsky Act-like draft was inked in December — unexpectedly covering the country’s own citizens unlike the original Magnitsky Act — this is another attempt by Moldovan pro-EU authorities to punish those seen as putting the country’s security at risk. 

The two individuals most likely targeted as oligarchs are Ilan Shor and Vlad Plahotniuc – both of whom have been investigated for financial crimes in Moldova. Their cases, however, have dragged on for years and are heading nowhere.

New legislation to allow the continuation of the trials in absentia should speed up final sentences in such cases. 

Last year, the US and the UK blacklisted Shor and Plahotniuc, who left the country in 2019.

The “corrupt politician” Igor Dodon, formerly the president of Moldova, seems also to be targeted by Popescu’s proposal. Dodon has been accused of corruption in a case currently being judged. However, he remains popular in Moldova, and was rated the second most trusted politician in the country according to a recent poll.