The Moldovan authorities have banned the the entry of the head of Russia’s Tatarstan Republic, Rustam Minnikhanov. He and his delegation were not allowed to enter Moldova on their arrival at Chisinau airport on April 17.
Chisinau has taken a tougher line towards Moscow recently, following reports from Ukrainian intelligence that Russia is planning to destabilise Moldova.
Minnikhanov was believed to be travelling to Moldova to support the pro-Russian candidate in the elections to be held at the end of April in the autonomous republic of Gagauzia.
"Supporting a candidate in the local elections in our country is not a good reason and the authorities have asked the Russian officials to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of our country,” reads a statement from the Border Police.
Minnikhanov said that he was going to Comrat, in the autonomous region of Gagauzia, to participate in a congress on the invitation of the deputy from the faction of the Bloc of Communists and Socialists, Alexandr Suhodolski.
Gagauzia, a pro-Russian region with an Orthodox Turkic population in Moldova, will host elections for the post of governor (bashkan) on April 30.
Commenting on the ban spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry Maria Zakharova said: “It is an unfriendly gesture not only against Tatarstan and Gagauzia but also against Russia.”
In total, 46 people were forbidden to enter Moldova in the last 24 hours, the Border Police quoted by Publika.md stated on the evening of April 17.
The Border Police explained that the people could not justify the purpose of their trips and offered contradictory information about the purpose of their visits.
Previously, Moldova’s police said they prevented a separate destabilisation plot carried out by Russian agents in connection to the street protests organised by the Shor Party on March 12. Foreign agents are understood to be increasingly involved in the street protests in Chisinau.
While Moldova has declined to join international sanctions on Russia, the small country is led by a pro-EU government and president, and secured EU accession candidate status in 2022. More recently, President Maia Sandu and Prime Minister Dorin Recean have publicly mooted the possibility of scrapping the neutrality enshrined in Moldova’s constitution.
Sandu also said that the country is still analysing whether a constitutional change will be necessary in order to join “a larger alliance”, when asked about her country’s potential Nato accession.