From TV to Telegram to TikTok, Moldova is being flooded with Russian propaganda
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
At least six people have died across Ukraine after a new barrage of Russian missiles. Most of the dead were in the city of Lviv, and the power went out in many parts of the country. Amid the continued assault, Russia also appears to be using more propaganda and false information to try to destabilize Ukraine's neighbor, Moldova. NPR's Shannon Bond reports.
SHANNON BOND, BYLINE: In February, Moldovan President Maia Sandu said Russia was plotting to overthrow her government, an allegation first made days before by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Russia denied the claim. And pro-Russian voices in Moldova dismissed the coup plot as a hoax. Valeriu Pasa is chairman of WatchDog Moldova, a think tank.
VALERIU PASA: They say that President Sandu used this scary stories in order to make people forget about economic and social problems and in order to install a dictatorship in Moldova.
BOND: Russia's defense ministry accused Ukraine of preparing to invade the separatist Moldovan region of Transnistria. Forged documents spread on Telegram and Twitter. A video claiming to show Romania massing military equipment on the Moldovan border racked up more than 300,000 views on Telegram. But according to Mark Sawyer of the disinformation monitoring company Logically...
MARK SAWYER: That video is actually a rebroadcast of a rehearsal for a military parade back in 2022. It was old footage that was just recast as something new, which is pretty common.
BOND: None of this surprises Pasa, given Russia's deep involvement in Moldovan politics since the breakup of the Soviet Union. He says, today, these pro-Russian narratives are pushed heavily by news outlets, politicians and online influencers.
PASA: From very serious evening talk shows on political subjects to TikTok.
BOND: But things have escalated since Russia invaded Ukraine and as Sandu's government has stuck to its pro-European stance. Just days before Sandu's accusations, Moldova's prime minister resigned, blaming crises caused by Russian aggression. WatchDog's polls find many Moldovans are receptive to Russian narratives blaming Ukraine and NATO for the war and pinning high energy prices on their own government, rather than Russia cutting gas supplies. Pasa says the Kremlin's goal is to stoke confusion and exacerbate tensions in an already polarized country.
SAWYER: Russia and a country like Moldova keeping this low level of social cohesion is very important.
BOND: In the hope it keeps Moldova from moving closer to Europe.
Shannon Bond, NPR News.
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