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News about Transnistria and Gagauzia emerge in the media: Moldova’s election season is about to begin, and the country will hold presidential elections this fall. Russia is trying to exert its influence on Moldova through the “problematic” regions of Gagauzia and Transnistria. In particular, it uses local pro-Russian figures to destabilize the situation in Moldova. The current President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, is committed to European integration and publicly supports Ukraine, which goes against the Kremlin’s plans. So, we analyzed content in sixteen anonymous Telegram channels posted in March 2024. The sample includes:

  1. Приднестровец (Pridnestrovets, The Transnistrian) —  73.2 thousand subscribers.
  2. Гагаузская Республика (Gagauzskaya Respublika, Gagauz Republic) — 36.2 thousand subscribers.
  3. Sputnik Молдова (Sputnik Moldova) — 26.9 thousand subscribers.
  4. KP.MD — 19.7 thousand subscribers.
  5. Блокнот Молдова (Bloknot Moldova, Notebook Moldova) — 11.6 thousand subscribers.
  6. Мамалыга и Токана (Mamalyga I Tokana, Mămăligă and Tokány) — 10.4 thousand subscribers.
  7. WTF Moldova? — 8 thousand subscribers.
  8. Молдавский Vагон (Moldavsky Vagon, Moldovan Train Car) — 7.6 thousand subscribers.
  9. Молдавский пистон (Moldavsky Piston, Moldovan Piston) — 7.3 thousand subscribers.
  10. Гений Карпат (Geniy Karpat, Genius of the Carpathians) — 6.8 thousand subscribers.
  11. Аргументы и факты в Молдове (Argumenty I Fakty V Moldove, Arguments and Facts in Moldova)  — 6.2 thousand subscribers.
  12. Молдавская политика (Moldavskaya Politika, Moldovan Politics) — 6 thousand subscribers.
  13. Выбор Молдовы (Vybor Moldovy, Moldova’s Choice) — 3.6 thousand subscribers.
  14. Смуглянка (Smuglianka, The Dark Girl [reference to the Smuglianka-Moldavanka song] ) — 3.3 thousand subscribers.
  15. eNewsmd.online — 3.1 thousand subscribers.

The sample is based on the fact that these channels mutually assigned themselves to the same channel folder on Telegram, which they jointly promoted. Also, these channels resorted to cross-posting most actively, i.e., reposting their own posts on different channels. Detector Media analysts have reviewed the main political trends in the country and the main tools used by Russian propagandists to spread a range of disinformation messages through these Telegram channels.

“The Blind Spot”: The Current Situation in Transnistria and Gagauzia

To understand why Russian propaganda is active in Moldova and focuses mainly on these two regions, we must dive deeper into their current political context. The situation with Transnistria is more or less clear: after the hot phase of the armed conflict that lasted from 1990 to 1992, a Russian military contingent remained in the country, which is why it is still called “frozen.” Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has revitalized the debate over Transnistria, as the Russian military presence there poses a security risk to both Ukraine and Moldova itself. Transnistria and its internationally unrecognized “authorities” oppose Moldova’s course toward European integration and are gradually aligning their legislation with Russian law. Since 2017, the Russian flag has become the second official flag in Transnistria. Recently, the Transnistrian “authorities” asked Russia to help solve the problem of “Moldova’s transport and economic blockade,” appealing to the OSCE for “new methods of conflict resolution.”

Compared to Transnistria, Gagauzia (Gagauz are a Turkophone people originally from the Balkans who live in southern Moldova and the Odesa region in Ukraine - DM) is an autonomous region within Moldova, where pro-Russian sympathizers won the recent local elections. In particular, Evgeniya Gutsul became Gagauzia’s new bashkan (head of the region). During her tenure, she became notable for a series of decisions, such as a trip to the World Youth Festival in Russia, a personal meeting with Putin, and the signing of cooperation agreements with a number of Russian constituent entities, including the Krasnodar Territory. Just like the “heads” of Transnistria, Hutsul also asked Moscow for help with the “blockade” issue. Both regions call the recent implementation of a new version of the Customs Code of Moldova, according to which both Transnistria and Gagauzia must reimburse entrepreneurs for taxes independently, a blockade. Previously, this was done by the central government in Chișinău. The Bashkan of Gagauzia has responded to this with the Russian propaganda cliché, declaring it an “infringement of the rights of the Gagauz”.

Gutsul is a person from the pool of pro-Russian Moldovan oligarch Ilan Shor, who was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison for bank fraud. Neither Maia Sandu nor Western diplomats keep in touch with the bashkan. Officials from Gutsul’s team can be found on EU sanctions lists. Russian propaganda is fueling this conflict through anonymous Telegram channels, spreading posts in the framework of several narratives localized to the Moldovan context and sometimes in line with Russian propaganda in other parts of the world.

The aforementioned Telegram channels generally publish content that aligns with the Kremlin’s rhetoric. The messages they spread often resonate with enemy propaganda, and we will demonstrate this below.

“Don’t Forget that Russia Is in Charge Here”

These Telegram channels incorporate internal Russian and more general Russia-related topics into their messaging. The authors of these Telegram channels use the technique of framing, selectively publishing whatever benefits them and whenever it benefits them. In this case, the main goal is to whitewash Russia’s image, especially in the context of the internal political struggle in Moldova between supporters of the country’s European integration course, unification with Romania, and rapprochement with Russia.

The authors of these Telegram channels repost statements by Russian officials and propagandists, sometimes adding their own pro-Russian comments. This became particularly apparent when the channels in the Moldovan segment began to cover the recent terrorist attack in the Crocus City Hall. The administrators of the Telegram channels on the list provided regular updates on the situation, which consisted of reposts of Russian propaganda channels.

This approach applied to more than just the terrorist attack. For example, the eNewsmd.online channel published a video with a quote from Putin about Navalny’s death. Immediately after the election, the same channel reposts an interview with the Italian senator to the pro-Russian Italian newspaper L’Antidiplomatico, where he praises the Russian election process.

Sputnik Moldova, which is one of the elements of Russian foreign broadcasting, writes about how a Russian politician said that he “does not envy the scum” who staged the terrorist attack in the Crocus and attached a video of Putin saying “to waste terrorists in the outhouse,” calling it “the reaction of a healthy person.” And here is an excerpt from an interview with the head of the pro-Russian movement Gaiduki Moldovy, Adrian Domentiuc, who claims that “Russia has never shown aggression towards Moldova” and that “since Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in Transnistria, peace and tranquility reign there.”

Bloknot Moldova expresses its surprise that no other Moldovan politician congratulated Putin on his victory in the “elections” except for the aforementioned Ilan Shor. The same outlet quoted Shor’s associate, Igor Dodon, who announced his intention to participate in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, calling it “a good platform for finding solutions.”

Gagauzskaya Respublika, meanwhile, published an article about how “successfully” Russia is advancing in the Zaporizhzhia Region, along with a series of statements about Putin’s ideas on the “SVO”. Here’s a quote from Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on the same channel about how Russia “used to trust everyone to the last, but now does not trust any Western politician.”

WTF Moldova? mocks Il Messagero’s reports that if Odesa falls, the Russian army could reach Bucharest in 24 hours, saying they do not understand why Russia needs Bucharest. Returning to the topic of the terrorist attack, the same channel condemned and ridiculed the statements of politician Dragoș Galbur for saying that “Putin himself is killing his own citizens in Moscow.” These are just a few examples from some of the channels on the list.

All of this is to convince the audience that Russia is the most important country in Moldova and the world. The propagandists in the Moldovan newspaper Telegraf use this as a basis for their admonitions to Ukraine.

“Ukraine is a Toxic Country for Moldova and Romania”

The propagandists in the listed Telegram channels are trying to show that the Moldovan government’s decision to support Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion is a mistake and could lead to a darker future, literally and figuratively, not only for Moldova but also for Romania. In addition, Russians claim that it is Ukraine that is provoking and wants to escalate the situation in Transnistria and Gagauzia.

The authors of the Moldavskaya Politika channel point out that Moldovan citizens are fighting as part of the international legion of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They underline that Sandu promised criminal liability for participation in the war, as “hiring military personnel is a crime” in the country. Still, they conveniently overlook the fact that the president was referring to participation in the war on the side of Russian forces. On the same channel, one can find a repost of a story by one of the propagandists with an interview with “historian, founder of the Russian Movement of Ukraine and leader of the Russian Bloc party” Oleksandr Svystunov, where he says that Ukraine allegedly claims Transnistria and wants this piece of land for itself.

Propagandists also tried to turn the recent situation with the downing of a drone in Transnistria against Ukraine. According to the Russian state media at the time, a military unit in unrecognized Transnistria was allegedly attacked by a kamikaze drone, which led to the destruction of an MI-8 military helicopter. The so-called Ministry of State Security of the unrecognized Transnistria released the information. KP.MD quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying that it was “laughing” at the Moldovan authorities’ statements about Ukraine’s non-involvement in the incident and spread the Russian version that Ukraine allegedly took this step to “interrupt the negative effect of the regular destruction of Ukrainian helicopters in the media field.”

The WTF Moldova? channel published an excerpt from an interview with the Moldovan government allegedly using the war in Ukraine to instill fear in the country’s residents. The same channel criticized Maia Sandu for calling for more weapons to Ukraine, adding its own commentary: “Maybe it’s better to call for peace and negotiations? To stop people from dying. But no, for that, Maia could have been punished by her masters.”

The Geniy Karpat channel contains an example of one of the messages within this view. According to it, the Russian Volunteer Corps that raided the Belgorod region included “Romanian mercenaries,” one of whom was killed during the operation. But in another post quoting a Moldovan politician, whom they call a “pompous pro-government power-lover,” the same channel criticized his alleged words that “separatism towards Romania should be treated differently than separatism towards Russia because Romania did not start the war against Ukraine.” The authors of the post summarize that Moldova supposedly exists solely for the sake of Ukraine.

Vybor Moldovy spreads anti-Ukrainian messages about Ukrainian refugees, claiming that they allegedly spread measles, causing an epidemic in the country. The Mamalyga I Tokana channel goes so far as to claim, quoting the leader of Sandu’s opposition party, the Revival, that because she promised to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine, people “feel like strangers in their own country.” The propagandists also used a similar tone in messages about Moldova’s rapprochement with Romania.

“Unionists Are Destroying Moldova”

Unionists is a term used by Russian propagandists to describe those who support the idea of Moldova being incorporated into Romania. According to supporters of this approach, this is a natural historical process, as the Kremlin created the Moldovan SSR at the whim of Russia. One of the peak moments of Russian propaganda frenzy occurred upon the decision to recognize Romanian as the official language of Moldova, although the Moldovan language, in the most extreme scenario, is Romanian, but written in Cyrillic, as we have previously discussed.

WTF Moldova? was present at a recent rally to celebrate the 1859 Union of Romania and Moldova and published exclusive videos with its watermark from the rally and its scathing commentary. In addition, in response to this rally, the aforementioned Gaiduki Moldovy organized their own protest at the same location. The authors of the pro-Russian channels mocked the unionist demonstrators extensively and whitewashed the intentions of the Gaiduki, even using the “good people” technique: allegedly, the fact that the Gaiduki demonstration was approved by an old lady handing out apples shows that Moldova has “good and kind people,” whereas Sandu is supported only by “crazy old ladies” allegedly “for money.”

A post by Smuglianka provides more clarity on how Russians see and exploit the differences between Romanians and Moldovans. During the election campaign in Romania, one of the candidates, Marcel Ciolacu, called Moldovans Romanians, which caused outrage among propagandists. They claimed that he was “playing geopolitical games” and that society “does not support” such statements, and all for one reason: Romanians “supported the Nazis,” while Moldovans did not. In another post, the channel’s authors accuse Romania of “rewriting history” because, in a newly adopted resolution, MEPs asked for the return of the wealth Romania left in Moldova in the early twentieth century. The propagandists were so outraged that they called it “impudence” and began to accuse Romania of the “occupation of Bessarabia,” which was “successfully stopped by Russia.”

Geniy Karpat criticizes the statements of the “unionist and Plahotniuc’s lackey” (note: this is one of the Moldovan oligarchs) Alexandru Tănase, where he spoke of Moldovans who are still waiting for Russia. He allegedly committed “incest over the Constitution” with his statement that unification with Romania is a pragmatic solution for Moldova, which is why he is a “piece of unionist shit” and a “shameless mul” (a “mul” is a derogatory name for Romanians and Moldovans used by Russian speakers, and also a designation for a resident of the outback — DM). The same channel commented on a recent poll of Moldovans on their approval of Romanians in power in Moldova as “Bessarabian Romanians in the Moldovan government should be thinking... If only they had something to do it with...”. 

Gagauzskaya Respublika went even further. It criticized the idea of Moldovan politician Oazu Nantoi to teach the “History of Romanians” in Transnistria, comparing it to the “Nuremberg racial laws” to “solve the issue of Jews in Nazi Germany.” Bloknot Moldovy alluded to the fact that Moldova will be represented at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest by a singer who married a Romanian oligarch and actually lives in Romania, reinforcing its other anti-Romanian publications. In general, for Russian propagandists, any rapprochement between Moldova and Romania is a disaster. But only one person is supposedly to blame.

“Maia Sandu Is Moldova’s Main Evil”

Russian propaganda disseminates hate speech against the President of Moldova and tries to discredit both her personally and her supporters. This is achieved through derogatory nicknames, such as “Maika” [Russian for a tank top], or by repeatedly using the same unflattering photos of her for publications. This is occurring both in the context of the upcoming presidential elections and a broader sense, as Sandu supports Moldova’s European integration course and rapprochement with Romania and supports Ukraine during the Russian aggression. In addition, she often goes against pro-Russian forces with her decisions, which causes a spike in negative publications in the aforementioned network of channels.

The propagandists were particularly angered by the government’s recent decision to close thirteen pro-Russian TV channels and several radio stations “due to suspicions that the beneficiaries of these companies are involved in activities that undermine national security.” The Smuglianka channel and the rest of the network claimed that the real reason behind the ban was that a journalist from one of these channels allegedly asked Sandu an uncomfortable question, which led the administrators of the said Telegram channels to attack the president personally. WTF Moldova? drew its own conclusion about the intricacies of this situation, describing the Moldovan authorities as follows: “They’re f*cked in the head, and they aren’t trying to hide it”.

The WTF Moldova? channel reposts quotes from Sandu’s chief political rival, pro-Russian former president Igor Dodon, who claims that Sandu is “destroying the country” and “decided to falsify” the upcoming presidential election results. For example, here’s a quote from another politician, Renato Usatîi, who tries to intimidate the audience by saying that Sandu allegedly wants to “block TikTok and Telegram in Moldova” and is waiting for the signing of the relevant documents that “are on her desk.” The post’s author even adds an ironic twist, arguing that while Russia and Ukraine have been unsuccessful in blocking these social platforms, “here comes [Maia] Sandu and Durov blocks everything.”

Sputnik Moldova comments on the incident with the alleged American fighter jet that crossed Moldova’s airspace as follows: “Under Maia Sandu, Moldova’s airspace is like a girl who claims to be a virgin and angrily rebuffs the attempts of some, but at the same time is, so to speak, wide open to others...”. But the authors of the same channel criticize Sandu for not reacting “quickly enough” to the recent terrorist attack in Moscow. Moldavsky Vagon even called her a “Romanian bitch” for this.

In response to Sandu’s statements that Putin should withdraw his troops from Ukraine, Pridnestrovets advised her to “shut up and deal with internal problems... otherwise, Putin would have to deal with Moldova’s internal problems”. Moldavskaya Politika quoted Vlad Filat, the political “godfather” (in their words) of Maia Sandu, as saying that one should not vote for Sandu because “you cannot govern a country if you do not love people.” Moldavsky Piston states that “Sandu does not love Moldova and does not love Moldovans.” The administrators of this channel quote journalist Dmitry Chubashenko, “Sandu, like a zombie programmed with a script, repeats the same set of phrases with manic persistence: ‘European Moldova... Honest people... Criminal groups... Justice reform... Servants of the Kremlin... Fighting corruption... Glory to Ukraine... Moldova is Europe...’ Amidst these spells, as if generated by artificial intelligence, tens and hundreds of thousands of people are leaving the territory, and the lives of those who remain are getting worse and worse, fearing that this snow queen of Moldova will also drag them into a war on the orders of the same crazy SS men like her — all these Ursulas, Michels and Borrells.” The propagandists have already picked a better alternative to Sandu, which they are now promoting.

“Evgenia Gutsul is a Much Better Option for President of Moldova Because She Is Friends with Russia”

Russian media, and especially anonymous Telegram channels in Moldova, present the bashkan of Gagauzia as a person who is fighting against the “Sandu dictatorship.” They claim that the current authorities are afraid of her and, therefore, do not recognize her as a bashkan, and not at all because of her trips to Russia. The Pridnestrovie channel wrote the following about her: “Evgenia Gutsul became Maia Sandu’s main rival in just one day.” While the publications about the current president on these channels are exclusively negative, the publications about Gutsul are always positive.

Sputnik Moldova quotes the bashkan’s decision to suspend the work of the interdeputy group for cooperation between Moldova and Gagauzia, as it was created “to divert attention, deceive representatives of the autonomy and European partners.” According to Gutsul, the autonomy “does not solve problems” but “makes all institutions meet its needs” and does not introduce a bashkan, i.e., herself (in the third person), into the government. In an interview with the resource, Yuri Vitnyansky, a member of the political bureau of the Revival party, claims that “Gagauzs have rallied around Gutsul” and that she is becoming “no longer a local political leader, but is reaching the national level,” predicting criminal proceedings against the bashkan as revenge for her allegedly higher ratings.

Pridnestrovets even tried to present Gutsul as a hero. Allegedly, on the day she returned from Russia, Sandu ordered Moldovan special forces to detain the bashkan of Gagauzia, which is why they were spotted in Chişinău. However, the same channel later wrote that Gutsul “left the airport without any impediments,” and the police said that the special forces at the airport had nothing to do with the politician’s arrival.

Bloknot Moldova reposts publications of Gutsul’s party and stories from its official channel. For instance, the bashkan even came to a meeting with the third president of Moldova, Vladimir Voronin, dressed in black, as the commemoration of the victims of the terrorist attack in Moscow also became a political tool in her hands. Other channels also capitalized on this contrast, arguing that Sandu is insensitive and doesn’t care, while Gutsul mourns even at official meetings and calls the situation a “tragedy for the whole world” in media comments.

Many of the channels on the list reposted a Russian-language post by Evgenia Gutsul about her lawsuit against Maia Sandu. According to the politician, “groundless insults and unfounded accusations against the top officials of Gagauzia have already become an integral part of Maia Sandu’s public speeches.” Gutsul demanded that the president apologize and refute the allegations about the detrimental nature of her ties with Russia. Allegedly, Chișinău is doing all this to “deprive Gagauzia as an autonomous region of the right to choose its own leaders,” referring to the fact that Sandu has not yet signed a decree recognizing Gutsul as the bashkan of Gagauzia. At a recent press conference, the president said she has no intention of doing so, as Gutsul works “for a criminal group, not for the people of Moldova, the people of the autonomy.”

However, there are some critical voices among the propagandists regarding Gutsul. Geniy Karpat interpreted the situation at the airport differently, writing that “extras were brought in” for the bashkan’s return, and if they really wanted to arrest her, it was definitely “not for her ties to Russia,” since “the ruling party does not rely on the pro-Russian electorate.” Moreover, according to the channel’s administrator, Evgeniya Gutsul has a certain “Jewish patron.” Despite this, even this message looks somewhat pro-Russian: at the end, the author advises the bashkan to “hire a bodyguard,” and the entire piece looks as if Russia has not yet fully accepted Gutsul as “one of its own.” However, propagandists keep trying to find more and more reasons to criticize Sandu.

“Postal Voting in the Upcoming Presidential Elections is a Fraud Conducted by Sandu’s Team”

Do you remember when Donald Trump and his supporters started talking about the falsification of the US presidential election in 2020, including through mail-in voting? Well, a very similar message can be observed in Moldova today. Recently, Maia Sandu and her administration announced the introduction of postal voting for representatives of the Moldovan diaspora living in the United States and Canada for the next presidential election. Propagandists consider this an attempt at falsification, as the diaspora allegedly strongly favors Sandu.

On this occasion, KP.MD reposted a statement by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who, despite “fraud attempts,” is outraged that Chişinău will not introduce a similar voting procedure for Moldovans in Russia. Zakharova said that this is “not the first time that the Moldovan authorities discriminated against their citizens in Russia,” saying that Moldovans in Russia also celebrated the national holiday of Mercişor without the support of the Moldovan Ministry of Culture. The same channel also reposted a publication by its colleagues from Sputnik Moldova, who quoted Moldovan MP Vasile Bolea as saying that voting in the United States and Canada would allegedly become a “lever for fraud” in the hands of the ruling PAS party since “after polling stations are closed in Moldova and the results are summed up, the elections in the United States and Canada will last another 10-12 hours.”

Sputnik Moldova did not shy away from a dramatic statement by another politician, MP Alexandr Nesterovschi. The latter claimed that “these elections will be the most difficult” for Moldova because “a complete dictatorship will be introduced in the country.” During a meeting with Russian officials from the Federation Council, Nesterovschi said that his party (Revival) opposes Moldova’s European integration and supports rapprochement with the pro-Russian Eurasian Economic Union. Moreover, the MP also lamented Chişinău’s support for anti-Russian sanctions and called them “sanctions against its own people.” In an interview with the aforementioned Yuri Vitnyansky for this very media outlet, he also made statements on the issue of mail-in voting, claiming that Chișinău would “segregate” Moldovans from residents of Gagauzia and Transnistria by doing so. In addition, he believes “no one will ever be able to control the integrity of voting by mail.”

Gagauzskaya Respublika reposted a statement by Moldovan MP Constantin Starîș on this topic made for another propaganda outlet not directly related to Moldova. Starîșh claims that the Moldovan authorities supposedly divide the diaspora into supposed “good” and “bad” kinds. Allegedly, there are favorable circumstances for campaigning in the West, but unfortunately (for the MP) it is almost impossible to campaign in Russia. The politician also claimed that voters were allegedly bribed and “transported” during the last presidential election.

Bloknot Moldova cited the words of a deputy of Maia Sandu’s party, Vitalie Jacot, who said that each vote of a diaspora representative in the United States and Canada would cost “at least twenty dollars.” The authors of this channel and those who published posts on the same topic argued that this money would allegedly be spent from the Moldovan state budget.

Geniy Karpat, WTF Moldova?, and their other propagandistic colleagues also reposted the words of former Moldovan Prime Minister and leader of the PDCM Party Ion Chicu, who said that he would not recognize the results of the presidential election if only Moldovan citizens in the United States and Canada were allowed to vote by mail. He said that the relevant bill was “created by fools.” Chicu also reiterated another statement on this topic: that no one can verify the integrity of voting by mail. eNewsmd.online went as far as to suggest that the stated author of the bill, a member of the ruling PAS party and pianist Vitali Gavruk, did not actually write it.

“The EU Accession Referendum is a Fraud, No Matter How You Slice It”

Recently, Moldovan President Maia Sandu announced that a referendum on the country’s accession to the European Union is also scheduled for the fall. If the outcome is positive, Moldova’s European integration course will be enshrined in the Constitution. This decision also angered propagandists.

Sputnik Moldova quoted the aforementioned former president Vladimir Voronin, who called the idea of a referendum “unconstitutional and premature.” He said that the referendum itself is “worthless” and that the American ambassador is “interfering in Moldova’s internal affairs” but does not react to this idea. According to Voronin, such a referendum should be held only after consultations with all EU member states. However, the “fearful” authorities have allegedly decided to “combine” this vote with the presidential election, even though it will “most likely fail.” When announcing this idea, the propagandists deliberately ignored the fact that Sandu said that the Constitutional Court and the Parliament would make the decision on the date, doubting that a simultaneous referendum and presidential election would be possible.

Smuglianka presented the opposition’s opinion on the non-recognition of the referendum results as a “new way” and a “vacant niche”. Allegedly, because “all political positions” on this issue were not factored in, including those of supporters of “Eurasian integration.” The channel’s authors write: “The EU has discredited itself, but the EEC, on the contrary, is allegedly growing in power.” The same channel also wrote that the European Union is allegedly shocked by the decisions of the Moldovan authorities, including concerning the idea of a referendum. Allegedly, Chișinău is only trying to get additional grant money.

Moldavsky Piston quotes PLDM party leader Vlad Filat, who restated the notion of “dividing the diaspora into the good and the bad”. Supposedly, it was Filat who initiated European integration processes in the country, and even he does not like the idea of a referendum because “Europe is not a dictatorship and censorship.” WTF Moldova? is trying to scare its readers by claiming that Sandu is supposedly omitting the fact that EU integration will mean higher taxes. Allegedly, the income tax in all EU member states is now higher than in Moldova, except for Bulgaria.

Gagauzskaya Respublika quoted Mihail Vlah, an adviser to Evgenia Gutsul, saying that this referendum will decide whether or not “Moldovan statehood will exist.” He said that if Sandu is not re-elected, “all the plans of her Western curators will simply cease to exist on the territory of the Republic of Moldova.” Gagauznews, on the other hand, engages in fear-mongering with the statement of the aforementioned MP Gavruk that if the referendum fails, “it will be possible to consider the option of joining Romania as an autonomous state.” This statement allegedly reveals that the government does not even believe in its own idea and is “planting” a “Plan B” in the media space.

Cross-Posting and Other Propaganda Techniques

All of the above statements are spread by cross-posting, i.e., by republishing each other’s posts, which is how these channels form a network. They also often praise these posts or directly advertise each other. Two other methods used by the WTF Moldova? channel are also worth noting. Specifically, it is almost always present on the scene when it comes to the activities of either the aforementioned Gaiduki Moldovy or the Russian embassy in Moldova. This allows them to create exclusive content that is then reposted by other channels. In addition, this channel is also where you can find scathing personal informal comments, punctuated by a phrase that is repeated at the beginning of each of them, “WTF?” The repetition tactic is intended to make you believe in the intentions of the creator of the content, in this case, the propagandists, even if there is some initial skepticism. As a result, this abbreviation can be found in almost every post on this channel.

Illustrations by Natalia Lobach

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