Igor Dodon, on the other hand, was the de facto leader of the pro-Russian Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM, Partidul Socialiştilor din Republica Moldova in Romanian), even while he was officially above party politics as head of state.
The loss of power by pro-Russian political forces may have been all the more disturbing to the Kremlin since, as of the end of 2019, Igor Dodon had subjugated virtually the entire Moldovan executive branch, including the Security and Intelligence Service, and his party, the PSRM, had a majority in parliament. Dodon used this power, among other things, for illegal surveillance of his political opponents.
Russia will not accept pro-European rule in Moldova and is actively working to oust the PAS and President Sandu.
The fact that the Socialists and Dodon spent a significant amount of their time and energy fighting for power with other pro-Russian politicians may also have played a role in their defeat. Dodon’s list of political enemies included people such as Renato Usatîi, mayor of Bălți, Irina Vlah, governor of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, and Ion Ceban, mayor of Chişinău (who is also a member of the PSRM).
At the same time, Russia will almost certainly not accept pro-European rule in Moldova and is actively working to oust the PAS and, if possible, President Sandu. And the Kremlin has various levers of influence it can use to undermine Moldova’s current leadership. The most significant of these are probably Moldova’s dependence on Russian energy supplies (especially natural gas) and the frozen conflict in Transnistria (especially Russia’s military presence in the region). However, other key “tools” include the Moldovan Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, the pro-Russian Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, and Russian-language television and other media.
In October 2021, a gas crisis broke out in Moldova. After the expiry of a supply agreement with Gazprom, Russia increased the price of natural gas sold to Moldova severalfold and reduced its gas supplies to Moldova. This crisis was not a bureaucratic misunderstanding or an economic trade dispute. Instead, it was a deliberate choice to exert political pressure by Russia.
In our assessment Russia will continue to seek ways in order to undermine the credibility of the pro-European government in Moldova and restrict the political choices of the Moldovan government.