RISE Moldova has discovered a folder of briefing notes and reports about some of Moldovan politicians running for the post of president in the 1 November 2020 election, in the so-called Chernov Archives — a data leak from the Moldova affairs office of the Russian presidential administration.
Kremlin officials had gathered a part of the information from open sources and others from confidential sources in Moldova. The data was used to create detailed profiles of Moldovan politicians, which are delivered straight to the Putin administration.
There is a so-called Moldova division within the Russian presidential administration which regularly screens the content published by Moldovan journalists and bloggers, popular Telegram and social media channels. The Moldovan affairs office also analyzes the investigative stories and the publications of RISE Moldova isn’t an exception.
During our labor to sort out the Chernov Archives we concluded that the Kremlin keeps a close eye on what Moldovan nongovernmental organizations do and especially on those funded by foreign donors. Among its internal briefings and reports we also noticed a profile of Moldova’s LGBT+ community rights watchdog GenderDoc-M. Details, HERE
The Moldovan affairs office in the presidential administration is led by Igor Maslov, a colonel at the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), who formally acts as the deputy chairman of the Department for Inter-Regional and Cultural Affairs with Foreigners.
One of the briefing documents about the Moldovan leader dates back to December 2019. It is very much different from the 2014 Dodon bio and looks more like a review of good deeds. Details, HERE
„…on 8 June  – in compliance with the recommendations of D. Kozak [Dmitry Kozak is President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for Moldova and Transnistria] — he withdrew from his secret agreements with Vladimir Plahotniuc and supported instead the proposal to ally with the ACUM bloc and set up a new parliamentary coalition and a shared government.”
„19 June: in an interview for Rossya-24, he underlined the importance of a balanced foreign policy and return to a normal dialogue with the Russian Federaton.”
„24 August – under his patronage, celebrations were held in Chisinau to mark the 75th anniversary of Moldova’s liberation from fascism; a meeting was held with S. Shoygu who arrived for an informal visit to take part in those events.”
„18 September – a meeting took place in Chisinau with D. Patrushev [Russian agriculture minister and son of Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev], with parties saluting the continued activity of the Moldova-Russia Inter-Government Commission and the signature of the meeting’s minutes.”
PLAHOTNIUC, THE ADVENTURER AND PLOTTER
Among the Kremlin’s files about Moldovan politicians we have unearthed a bio about oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, who was described as an “adventurer and plotter” and “the shadowy master of Moldova. This description was submitted by the Moldovan affairs office in 2014.
The Putin administration has watched carefully the Moldovan oligarch’s meetings with foreign diplomats and recorded his attempts to make secret deals with Russia’s geopolitical adversaries.
„In August 2013, Plahotniuc had a meeting with US Ambassador to Moldova W. Moser, briefing the diplomat about his struggle on “Russian influence on Moldova” and on the Communist Party. The oligarch asked for protection from British and Cypriot accusations of raider attacks, offering in return a plan an guarantees for dismantling the Communists and neutralizing V.Voronin. In the European Union’s political elites Mr. Plahotniuc has a strong reputation of adventurer and plotter,” reads a paper from the Chernov Archives.
The document also counts a number of scandals and embarrassing situations around the name of Plahotniuc.
„Plahotniuc has discredited himself in scandals related to frauds, economic offenses, and corruption.
„According to the I.Dodon’s personal accounts from 1 January 2020, the media resources controlled by V.Plahotniuc were supported by the United States via USAID grants. This decision was taken at the US Embassy before the Christmas [Orthodox Christmas 2020],” claimed the Russian officials while quoting sources in Chisinau. They also said Publika TV, for example, broadcast for two weeks critical content of President Dodon from opposition politicians.
„In parallel, Plahotniuc’s television stations gave the floor to all opposition actors who in a way or other criticized I.Dodon — from M.Sandu to M.Tkaciuc; Prime TV, one of the most popular channels, which rebroadcast Russia’s Pervy Kanal, let Mr. Tkaciuc speak for 12 minutes in prime times,” the document says.
CANDU COMBINES LAWMAKING AND BUSINESS
We learned this from the Russian bio about Andrian Candu, a lawmaker and god-son of the oligarch, who now chairs the Pro Moldova Party. Not only did they cover life facts about Candu, but the Kremlin officials borrowed parts of a RISE Moldova investigative story about the former speaker of the Moldovan parliament Details, HERE.
„Breaking the Law on the Status of a Parliament Member, A.Candu has remained involved in business even after his election as a member of parliament, in November 2010. he signed bank orders for a Netherlands-registered offshore company, OTIV Prime Media B.V. He also continued to represent in business OTIV Prime B.V., in parallel with his political activity,” the Russians said, adding that Moldovan law-enforcement agencies moved not one finger to hold Candu accountable, given that all of them were controlled by Plahotniuc.
SANDU AND THE „ROMANIANIZATION” OF SCHOOLS
The Moldovan affairs office have file both on left-wing and right-wing politicians in Moldova.
A note redacted in the second half of 2015 about the chairwoman of the Action and Solidarity Party, Maia Sandu, who is seeking election as Moldova’s next president describes her as a woman with an undisguised pro-Western orientation, strong connections with V.Filat [ex-prime minister] and a policy of Romanianization of education establishments in Moldova.
„She has opposed the claims from the Democratic Party to keep control on the justice and prosecution systems. She has strong linkages with the USA, and is engaged in America-sponsored NGOs. In the West she is regarded as a candidate to the post of prime minister with best chances,” the note for the Kremlin reads.
The note about Renato Usatîi, leader of Our Party and a candidate for the presidential office, was prepared — according to the Dossier Center — in the second half of 2015. It outlines, in particular, the attraction of this politician for Moscow and questions his alleged connections with the underworld:
„R. Usatîi pleads consequently for close economic, political, cultural, spiritual, and humanitarian relationships with the Russian Federation. He advertises for a constructive cooperation with the Russian side. Taking into account his entrepreneurial past, his political opponents often point fingers to him as a person from a criminal environment, albeit these allegations are groundless.”
NĂSTASE AND ANTI-PLAHOTNIUC RHETORIC
While browsing the Chernov Archives we could not see a detailed report on the leader of the Dignity and Truth Party, Andrei Năstase. Instead, we found a note about his televised debates with Socialist candidate Ion Ceban in 2018, when the two competed for the post of Chisinau mayor:
«A. Năstase is more tense, a little more clumsy, speaks louder and more aggressively, always resorting to political slogans. At the same time, it feels that in the current campaign he has gained courage and aspires to victory… A. Năstase has become obsessed with the anti-Plahotniuc rhetoric, which was also the pivot of his campaign. He greatly misses the consistent in content. As for charisma, I. Ceban is clearly ahead of him. He obviously relies on the right-wing voters and pro-Romania voters.”
ZINAIDA, „THE ACCOUNTANT”!
One of the earliest references in the Chernov Archives is about the acting Speaker of Parliament Zinaida Greceanîi; it dates back to 2014.
Unlike the first references about Igor Dodon, who was described as a person to be distrusted, the Kremlin — though laconic — was pretty generous in complements for „Zinaida Petrovna” [Zinaida Greceanîi].
„As a politician, she shines with calm, labor capacity, relentlessness, and “Siberian character” … while in terms of clothing Greceanîi strictly follows the communist fashion: … she prefers classical suits and hairstyle reminding former district committee secretary… government and party fellows nicknamed her “Mrs. Accountant”,” the file about Greceanîi reads.
GRIGORIȘIN: CONNECTIONS WITH UKRAINE AND COMPARISON OF USATÎI WITH GOD
Nicolai Grigorișin, a close supporter of Renato Usatîi, who was a former mayor of Balti city, too “earned” a profile in the Chernov Archives. Although there’s not so much information about Grigorișin, the Kremlin looked at his business relationships in Ukraine. The file says: “He is believed to be a business partner close to R. Usatîi. Is know for his phase uttered in public: „Renato Usatîi may be compared with God himself only!”.
A MULTI-MILLION PORTRAIT OF A FORMER SECURITY CHIEF
Maslov’s subordinates also gathered information about high ranking officials in Moldova. As a rule, they used open sources and journalist investigations, adding later confidential data. In the Chernov Archives we found a file about Vasile Botnari who served as the director of the Moldovan Information and Security Service (SIS) in 2017-2019. The Russians reviewed the public assignments of Botnari over the years. They paid attention to the circumstances of his appointment in February 2017 to the office of chairman of the managing board of MoldovaGaz SA, which were widely covered in the Moldovan media.
„According to claims by Antimafia Movement, this [appointment of Botnari] was the outcome of a pact between V. Plahotniuc and I. Dodon, and the approval was reached during a meeting between the Moldovan president and A. Miller [Alexey Miller, CEO of Gazprom] in January,” says one of the reports. The paper also contains a mention that Botnari’s appointment was possible thanks to a personal lobby from Plahotniuc as the two were close allies. In addition, it quotes Romanian press reports as saying that Vasile Botnari is a multimillionaire.
FUTURE PROSECUTOR-GENERAL FOLLOWED ON SOCIAL MEDIA
The Moldovan affairs office also produced papers with social media accounts of Moldovan politicians. The Chernov Archives contains a list with such accounts but has no date when the document was created. It includes the real names of 12 politicians in Chisinau and 10 political figures in the Gagauzian autonomy.
Most politicians from Chisinau are supporters of the Socialist Party while among the regional leaders the name of Alexandr Stoianoglo was in the list. Mr. Stoianoglo is currently the prosecutor-general of Moldova.
WORKERS AT MOLDOVAN AFFAIRS OFFICE
RISE Moldova and Dossier Center analyzed the metadata of every document in the Chernov Archives and succeeded to identify some of the writers of the above-mentioned files. We decided not to release the technical features of documents in order to protect the sources.
For days, we tried to reach the people in the Moldovan affairs office in the Kremlin and ask more details about their goals concerning Moldova. Few accepted to answer our questions.
For example, Igor Maslov, head of the office in the Department for Inter-Regional and Cultural Affairs with Foreigners, had ignored our phone calls and messages. Read HERE
We found Vasily Kashirin (38 years old) via the phone but he cut the conversation short.
Vasily Kashirin: I work for the government and I am strictly prohibited from talking to the press. Not just foreign press, I mean Russian press too. Therefore please excuse me…
Alexey Negodov (47 years old) gathers biographic materials about Moldovan politicians. He did not reply.
Andrey Rusakov (52 years old), according to Dossier Center, maintains the ties with Transnistrian and Gagauzian leaders and activists. Among them are the directors of the Tiraspol-based Institute for Social-Political Study and Regional Development — Igor Shornikov and Vera Tabak. The latter used to be Transnistria’s first lady. Rusakov also looks after the former interior minister of the unrecognized republic — Nina Shevchuk (Shtansky) — and the chairman of the movement Fatherland — Eurasian Union — Igor Tulyantsev.
Tulyantsev told RISE Moldova: „The name Rusakov doesn’t tell me anything. I don’t recognize the man in your picture. However, I cannot rule out that I may have met this person at a public event along with other hundreds of people present there, where it’s impossible to remember all of them. And it makes little sense to remember everyone. My communication area is quite vast and interesting, but the given man is not among those I keep a communication line with.”
Rusakov responded over the phone but when he learned that we were going to ask questions, he excused himself for being “too busy”. We requested another time for an interview and she cut it short: “Monday” and hanged down. He never responded since then.
Svetlana Voronina deals with the editing of political statements about Moldova for the Kremlin, according to the Dossier Center. We were able to speak to Mrs. Voronin over the phone and when we told her about the purpose of our conversation, she asked us to postpone the conversation on the ground that “connection was poor and inaudible.” She too never replied afterwards.
Reporter: Vladimir THORIK
Adaptation and editing: Iurie SANDUȚA
Cartoons: Art of Alex Buretz