(Reuters) – Russia denied entry to several Moldovan officials on Monday, complaining about its pro-European government’s moves to block Russian media ahead of local elections earlier this month.
The moves were the latest in a series of heated clashes between the two sides amid Moldova’s accusations that Russia was putting pressure on the affairs of the former Soviet state and the president Maia SanduThe aspiration to join the European Union.
A statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moldovan Ambassador Lilian Darie had been summoned to be informed of the decision.
“Strong protest has been presented to the Moldovan side in connection with the ongoing politically motivated persecution of Russian media in Moldova, including blocking access to their websites,” the ministry said in a statement.
It said the ambassador had been told that Moscow was taking an “asymmetric measure” to deny entry to a number of officials from Moldova, but gave no further details.
Moldova’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Sakharov told Moldova-1 television that the government stands ready to protect its media from interference, regardless of Moscow’s moves.
“…We strive to continue to defend our information space from any outside interference and maintain our firm position against disinformation, hybrid attacks and attempts to destabilize the situation in Moldova,” Zaharov said.
Moldova’s newsmaker.md said the Russian list excluded 11 parliamentarians – all members of Sandu’s pro-European Party of Action and Solidarity.
In the run-up to the election, Moldova suspended licenses and blocked access to 30 media sites – some based in Russia, others in Moldova – on the grounds of spreading disinformation.
Sandu has denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and accused Moscow of trying to overthrow it in a coup. Russia denies the allegations and says Sandu is fomenting an anti-Russian atmosphere in the country.
(Reporting by Reuters and by Alexander Tanas in Chisinau, editing by Ron Popeski and Sandra Maler)