Expelled Russian diplomats ‘are spies’
CHISINAU: Moldovan intelligence believes five Russian diplomats expelled from Moldova last month were spies who were recruiting fighters for the Moscow-backed insurgency in neighbouring Ukraine, a government source and two diplomatic sources said.
Moldova expelled the diplomats on May 29. It did not explain the decision, with Prime Minister Pavel Filip saying only that his government had “good reasons”.
According to the sources, who are familiar with the case, the five were ejected because of their alleged activities as undercover officers with the Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU.
They said Moldovan officials believed the Russians were recruit- ing fighters from Gagauzia, an autonomous southern region home to an ethnic Turkish population that is pro-Russian and opposes closer integration with the EU.
The Moldovan government source and Chisinau-based diplomatic sources all spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
They did not say how the Russians allegedly recruited the fighters, how many were recruited or the reason for their recruitment.
The allegations about the activities of the five Russians could not be independently verified.
The Russian foreign ministry declined to comment.
The Russian defence ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
Asked if the five Russians were GRU officers, a spokeswoman for the Moldovan foreign ministry said they were diplomats and declined to comment further.
More than 10 000 people have died in fighting in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels since the conflict began in 2014 following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula. While Moscow politically backs the insurgents, it has repeatedly denied Western accusations that it is arming them and sending fighters.
Moldovan intelligence believes fighters recruited from Gagauzia were first sent to a paramilitary training camp in the Rostov region of southern Russia, according to the sources. – Reuters