Underneath the disinformation campaign surrounding the Russian gas crisis in the Republic of Moldova. “Rusophobe Sandu has to pay”
The EUvsDisinfo website, the pilot project of the Eastern StratCom Working Group of the European External Action Service set up in 2015 to better respond to the Russian Federation’s misinformation campaigns affecting the European Union, does. an analysis of the gas crisis in the Republic of Moldova, showing the main topics on which the pro-Kremlin newspapers marched to explain why he got here.
“The state-owned company Gazprom has increased the price of gas supplies to the Moldovan-Moldovan gas joint venture Moldovagaz from $ 550 to $ 790 per thousand cubic meters and reduced the amount of gas by about a third. Moldova has declared a state of emergency and started importing gas from other countries, with EU assistance, after the contract with Gazprom expired at the end of September. “
According to President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, “Gazprom has offered a fair price based on a business decision.”
“Rusophobe Sandu has to pay”
In addition to this statement by Peskov, there are other narratives circulated by the pro-Kremlin media ecosystem, which mainly sought to explain why the gas crisis developed, who was to blame for it and what was needed to solve it. The most common is: “The contracts have expired, now the Russophobe Sandu has to pay.”
The context is related to the fact that the Kremlin lost its loyal ally in the leadership of the Republic of Moldova, former President Igor Dodon, in 2020. Now, the reform-oriented policy of current President Maia Sandu and his government must come with a price, in view . The Kremlin.
Some of the narratives promoted by the Russian state media are built around the idea that the West surrounds Russia and creates a conspiracy against it. Examples include these quotesn Rossiya 1, Russian state television: “Russophobic Moldova is a pawn in the chess game of Washington and Brussels” and “Sandu plays with Russophobic Kiev when he joins the Crimean Platform. Sandu has to pay the price and be punished for it. ”
“Bite the Russian bear and then ask for a discount on the price of gas”
Offensively, they were in Russian special state publications in Moldova, such as the local version of the Sputnik news agency or Komsomolskaya Pravda, Moldova’s largest Russian-owned newspaper. The titles in Sputnik they included these examples: “You can’t spit in front of a country you ask for or reduce the price of gas supply” or “You can’t get a good price for gas by indirectly declaring war on Russia.” The story that received the most attention on Facebook came again from Komsomolskaya Pravda, who asked if it was okay to “bite the Russian bear and then ask for or reduce the price of gas.” The publication tells readers: “The decision has been made: gas is twice as expensive as before.” One sub-narrative claims that “Moldova is a victim of Western Russophobes.”
“A plot to strangle Transnistria”
Other narratives overturn the logic of “it’s just money”, omitting who raised gas prices and reduced the volume. The narratives presented by several Russian media institutions, including Izvestiya, NTV, Regnum, Fondsk.ru show that “Sandu wanted to strangle Transnistria / Sandu must give assurances about Transnistria”. The reality is that the Transnistrian region has accumulated a debt about 10 times higher than the amount demanded by Gazprom from Moldovagaz. However, Gazprom did not make any request regarding Transnistria.
In October, Moldova turned to the EU for help, which came on October 28 in the form of 60 million euros through a new budget support program. Moldova has asked for help with gas imports from countries such as Ukraine and Poland.
This was ridiculed in the misinformation spread by pro-Kremlin institutions. Russia’s key state television channels set the tone: its flagship program Rossia 1 – “60 Minutes” labeled Moldova’s request for assistance to Ukraine as “ridiculous, considering that Ukraine is freezing”. Ukraine’s promise to give gas to Moldova has been labeled “political, not business,” while Russian Armed Forces TV station Zvezda called Moldova’s decision to buy gas from anyone other than Gazprom a “bluff.”
In the pro-Kremlin ecosystem, theories transmitted by “heavy” media outlets are always reproduced, regurgitated, or promoted by numerous smaller pro-Kremlin media outlets or platforms in Russia and abroad. The theories approved by the party reach the target audience around the world in different languages.
“Sandu government will collapse”
The idea that the government of Sandu and Moldova is about to disintegrate is a kind of umbrella narrative that gathers other theories to prove the futility of choosing a government that does not follow the line of Moscow. A number of stories have been told, for example, that the economy will soon collapse, that a systemic crisis is coming, that the administration will no longer be able to support the functioning of companies, and that the coming winter will be devastating.
What role did misinformation play?
First of all, for the Russian internal public, this misinformation supports the narrative that Russia is a besieged fortress. Second, criticism of Ukraine and Poland has become almost a reflex for the Kremlin.
“In the Republic of Moldova, misinformation has increased the pressure on the Moldovan authorities during the gas negotiations. It has created uncertainty about the demands that will come in the negotiations. Another goal seems to have been to create uncertainty and anxiety in the Moldovan society, which asked the authorities to find a quick solution to the gas crisis, creating additional pressures “, the analysis shows on the website” EU vs disinfo “.
The misinformation that “Moldova is the puppet of the EU and the US” has been effectively countered by both the Moldovan and EU leaders, stressing that decisions will be made first in Chisinau. The EU provided support, including funding, but in response to a request from the Republic of Moldova. At the same time, the fact that the EU provided support was used to counter the misinformation about the gas crisis.
The gas crisis has so far been resolved by concluding a new five-year contract that includes a pricing mechanism. Things have calmed down: gas continues to flow to Moldova. Transnistria receives gas and produces its share of electricity.
“A disinformation campaign promoted by pro-Kremlin media institutions preceded this result and created uncertainty about future gas supplies. The Government of the Republic of Moldova involved public opinion and helped to calm the atmosphere. EU and partner support was mobilized. This time, the misinformation did not work “, concludes the quoted analysis.
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