Russian intelligence ‘planning insurrection’ in Moldova

Institute for the Study of War

US intelligence warned that individuals with ties to Russian intelligence may be planning to attempt to instigate an insurrection in Moldova. CNN reported on March 10 that White House officials believe that Russian intelligence-linked individuals are planning to stage protests against the Moldovan government with the intent of fomenting a “manufactured insurrection” to install a pro-Russian administration in Moldova. CNN reported that the US believes Russia has been spreading disinformation about Moldova’s purported instability and supporting it with information operations emanating from Russian-occupied Transnistria. ISW has recently reported on several ongoing information operations in Transnistria premised on undermining the Moldovan government and sewing distrust of Ukraine and the West.

Russian forces continue to establish defensive lines in rear areas far from current frontlines and areas in Russia that will likely never see fighting. Belgorod Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov claimed on March 9 that Russian authorities finished constructing the “zasechnaya line” of fortifications along Belgorod Oblast’s border with Ukraine. Gladkov claimed that Russian forces should dedicate troops to defending this system of fortifications in case of an implausible Ukrainian attack on Belgorod Oblast. Russian forces would significantly misallocate forces that would be better suited supporting active offensive operations elsewhere in Ukraine by manning these fortifications. Gladkov also claimed that Russian officials spent 10 billion rubles (about $132 million) constructing the defensive line, a likely waste of funds amid questions about Russia’s ability to fund its war effort in Ukraine. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported on March 10 that Russian forces continued building fortifications along Kursk Oblast‘s border with Ukraine, another area that will likely never see fighting. Occupied Crimea head Sergey Aksyonov claimed on March 10 that Russian forces are constructing a defensive line in Crimea and implied that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the construction of the line. These fortifications are far away from the current frontlines in southern Ukraine, and any Russian personnel and equipment deployed to these lines would similarly be better suited elsewhere in Ukraine. Russian officials in Kursk and Belgorod oblasts may be constructing defensive fortifications in support of information operations that aim to portray Ukraine as threatening Russian territory in order to frame the war in Ukraine as existential for Russia. Continued Russian fortifications in Crimea may suggest that Russian forces are unsure of their ability to hold occupied territories in southern Ukraine in the long term. ISW has not observed Russian forces deployed to any of these defensive lines at this time, and the fortifications are therefore currently inconsequential for Russian operations in Ukraine.

Russian Commissioner on Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, confirmed that the Russian government is using a variety of schemes to deport Ukrainian children to Russia in a comment that was apparently meant to disprove Western allegations of the illegality of these actions. In a Telegram post published on March 10, Lvova-Belova accused the West of artificially manufacturing fear regarding the deportation and forced adoption of Ukrainian children and claimed that children came to occupied areas of Ukraine and Russian territory “voluntarily” and can return to their families. Lvova-Belova admitted that Russian authorities have taken children from Kherson, Zaporizhia, and Kharkiv oblasts to “sanatoriums” and health camps in occupied Crimea and Krasnodar Krai for “rest” and protection from hostilities and claimed that 89 “children of Ukrainian citizens” will be reunited with their families from such programs in Crimea and Krasnodar Krai. ISW has previously reported on such schemes to remove children from Ukraine under the guise of rest and relaxation programs and noted that several children in Krasnodar Krai and Crimea have been held for forced adoption into Russian families. An independent investigation by Yale’s Humanitarian Research Lab found that of likely over 14,700 Ukrainian children deported to Russia, only 126 returned to Ukraine as of January 2023. Lvova-Belova’s claim that a certain number of Ukrainian children are being returned to their families does not negate the reality that the vast majority of abducted children do not return to Ukraine. ISW continues to assess that the forced deportation and adoption of Ukrainian children is an apparent violation of the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, as well as a component of a wider ethnic cleaning campaign.

Key Takeaways

  • US intelligence warned that individuals with ties to Russian intelligence may be plancning to attempt to instigate an insurrection in Moldova.
  • Russian forces continue to establish defensive lines in areas in rear areas far from current frontlines and areas in Russia that will likely never see fighting.
  • Russian Commissioner on Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, confirmed that the Russian government is using a variety of schemes to deport Ukrainian children to Russia in a comment that was apparently meant to disprove Western allegations of the illegality of these actions.
  • Russian sources claimed that Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian sources claimed that Wagner Group forces entered the built-up AZOM industrial complex, and frontal assaults on the complex will likely be costly for Wagner Group forces.
  • Russian forces made gains in Bakhmut, are clearing eastern parts of the city, and have advanced to new positions in northwestern Bakhmut within 800 meters of the AZOM metal processing plant.
  • Russian forces continue reconnaissance activity near islands in the Dnipro River delta.
  • The Wagner Group continues to expand efforts to recruitment efforts in Russia.
  • Russian officials and occupation authorities continue to announce new infrastructure projects to increase connectivity between the Russian mainland and occupied territories.