The European Union on Tuesday imposed sanctions on seven people from Moldova for actions it said destabilised and undermined the territorial integrity of the small impoverished country and neighbouring Ukraine, APA reports citing Reuters.
The 27-nation bloc announced the punitive measures two days before more than 40 European leaders meet in Chisinau in a show of support for the former Soviet republic, which has a pro-western government and denounced Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The EU, which has offered generous support to Moldovan President Maia Sandu since her election in 2020, also announced it was doubling its grant of macroeconomic support to 290 million euros ($310 million).
Three of those targeted by the EU have fled Moldova. Two face charges connected to a bank fraud.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement that the seven were "responsible for actions aimed at destabilising, undermining or threatening the sovereignty and independence" of Moldova and Ukraine.
Sandu accuses Moscow of plotting to undermine her country.
"These people who disagree with our laws betrayed and continue to betray the national interest, put Moldova's development under threat and work for the benefit of the Kremlin," she wrote on social media.
Those targeted by the EU include Vlad Plahotniuc, deemed the mastermind of a $1 billion fraud in 2014-2015 and Ilan Sor, his pro-Russian associate who has organised mass anti-government protests from exile in Israel.
Also on the list was Marina Tauber, a senior member of Sor's party and a chief organiser of the recurring protests.
Sor, a financial magnate sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Moldovan court in April, dismissed the EU measures and accused Sandu of driving the country towards bankruptcy.
"Moldova is a neutral state and should conduct itself in accordance with what is written in the constitution," he told Russian media.