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Sanctioned Moldovan Oligarch With Ties to Russia Running Ads on Facebook


FILE - Former Moldovan politician Ilan Shor campaigns in the city of Comrat on Feb. 15, 2019. Facebook allowed the sanctioned Moldovan oligarch to run ads aimed at fomenting anti-government sentiments and destabilizing the Moldovan government, reports AP.

Social media platform Facebook allowed a sanctioned Moldovan oligarch to run ads aimed at fomenting anti-government sentiments and destabilizing the Moldovan government, reports The Associated Press.

The news agency said Friday that the Facebook ads featured former politician Ilan Shor, who has strong ties to Russia. The ads were eventually removed by Facebook but not before they were seen millions of times in Moldova, a nation of about 2.6 million sandwiched between Romania and war-torn Ukraine.

Dorin Frasineanu, a foreign policy adviser to former Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita — whose resignation led to the formation of a new government on Thursday — told AP the ads highlighted the nation’s high inflation and struggling economy and blamed President Maia Sandu’s government. He said the ads helped fuel angry anti-government protests.

Shor, previously convicted of money laundering and embezzlement in Moldova, was sanctioned last year by the U.S. Treasury Department for his efforts to undermine the Moldovan government and thwart its efforts to join the European Union.

Treasury officials said Shor formed a populist opposition party — named for himself — that worked with Russian operatives to gain control of Moldova's parliament.

The Facebook revelation came one day after the Moldovan parliament voted to install a new pro-Western government, and two days after Sandu outlined a Russian plot to destabilize and bring down the Moldovan government.

The plot was revealed a week ago when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country had intercepted the plans by Russian secret services. Moldovan intelligence agents later confirmed the plans.

When Sandu outlined the plot for reporters Wednesday, she said Shor’s opposition party was a key component — working to bring down the constitutional order, keep Moldova out of the European Union and help Russia’s war with neighboring Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Friday with Sandu on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference and pledged strong U.S. support for Moldova. He expressed concern about Russia’s plotting to destabilize its government and commended Sandu and her government’s efforts to protect the country.

Moldova's parliament on Thursday approved a new pro-Western government led by Prime Minister Dorin Recean, who pledged to continue the nation’s course toward EU membership.

Recean replaces former Prime Minister Gavrilita, whose government resigned a week ago following a difficult 18 months in office marked by economic turmoil and alleged meddling by Russia.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.