US blocks assets of Russia-linked agents involved in conspiracy against Moldova

US blocks assets of Russia-linked agents involved in conspiracy against Moldova
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest June 6, 2023

The US, through the Treasury’s specialised body OFAC, imposed sanctions against seven designated leading members of a Russian intelligence-linked “malign influence group” on June 5, accusing them of being part of a Russian destabilisation campaign aimed at supporting a conspiracy to seize power in Moldova

This comes after OFAC imposed sanctions in October 2022 against Moldovan politician Ilan Shor and seven others over the Kremlin’s attempts to interfere in Moldovan politics.

A beneficiary of the massive 2014 money laundering scheme related to the theft of $1bn from Moldovan banks, Shor “has worked with other corrupt oligarchs and Moscow-based entities to create political unrest in Moldova and sought to undermine Moldova’s bid for EU candidate status,” OFAC reasoned in October 2022.

Through its accomplices in Moldova and with the support of the Russian intelligence-linked “malign group of influence”, Shor has continued to finance protest rallies against the government in Moldova and instruct groups of individuals to generate violent incidents in February and March this year, Moldova’s authorities established.

The group sanctioned now by the US have participated with intelligence and logistical support to the conspiracy to seize power in Moldova, the statement said.

"The entities associated with Russia, which were included in the list [of June 5 this year], participated in a conspiracy to seize power in Moldova and destabilise the situation in the country," the OFAC noted. 

It provided the names of those included in the sanctions list: Konstantin Sapozhnikov, Yuri Makolov, Gleb Khloponin, Svetlana Boyko, Alexei Losev, Vasily Gromovikov and Anna Travnikova.

A workshop owned or controlled by one of these individuals has also been designated.

All property and interests in property of the designated persons that are in the US are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are 50% or more owned, directly or indirectly, by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.

The OFAC added that the group is part of a major global information operation associated with Russia, which is aimed primarily at Ukraine and neighbouring countries, as well as the EU, the UK and the United States. According to the United States, some members of the group collected information about security measures in government buildings in Moldova and conducted reconnaissance on the ground, others were engaged in budgeting and financing the conspiracy.

"These actors provoked, trained and supervised groups in democratic countries that conduct anti-government protests, rallies, marches and demonstrations. These malign influencers analyse countries that are vulnerable to exploitation and stoke fears that undermine faith in democratic principles in target countries," the statement said.

Sapozhnikov is the leader of the malign influence group and organised the plot to destabilise the government of Moldova in early 2023.

Makolov was involved in logistical support for the plot to destabilise the government of Moldova.

Khloponin was involved in gathering security details on various government buildings in Moldova for the plot to destabilise the government of Moldova.

Boyko is a senior member of the aforementioned malign influence group and handled budgeting for the plot to destabilize the government of Moldova.

Losev conducted reconnaissance in Moldova for the plot to destabilise the government.

Gromovikov was involved in financing the plot. 

Travnikova has been involved in the malign influence group’s influence operations targeting foreign audiences. The operations were designed to sway public opinion abroad in favour of Russia in the context of Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine. In 2022, Travnikova coordinated with Boyko on promoting pro-Russia narratives for audiences in multiple countries, including the United States.