Moldova cuts Russian embassy staff over ‘unfriendly actions’ amid spying scandal

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP): Moldova’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that it has informed Russia that 45 of its embassy positions in Chisinau will be cut due to “unfriendly actions” against Moldova, as relations between the two countries deteriorate further amid Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the decision was based on “numerous unfriendly actions” towards Moldova, “which are not related to the diplomatic mandate, as well as attempts to destabilize” the country, which borders both Ukraine and Romania.

The move to reduce the number of diplomats and technical or administrative staff comes days after two local media outlets, Insider and Jurnal TV, published a joint investigation alleging that dozens of satellite dishes and antennas installed on Russia’s embassy rooftop could be used for spying.

Russia’s ambassador to Moldova was summoned on Wednesday following the report, and Moscow has until Aug. 15 to comply with the decision, the ministry said. In all, 22 diplomats and 23 administrative staff will be affected.

Moldova’s government spokesperson, Daniel Voda, said on Wednesday in a press briefing that limiting the number of accredited Russian diplomats in Moldova creates “a situation in which fewer individuals have the chance to destabilize our country.”

“In circumstances where employees are not involved in promoting bilateral relations, it becomes obvious that their diplomatic and administrative-technical representation is excessive,” he said.

In a press briefing Wednesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the move “another step in the destruction of bilateral relations,” and said the “unjustified and unfriendly actions … will not go unanswered.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Moldova’s leaders have repeatedly accused Moscow of conducting campaigns to try to destabilize the country, which was a Soviet republic until 1991, and became a European Union candidate last year.