(Bloomberg) -- A branch of Moldova’s pro-Russian opposition met in Moscow on Sunday to create a new anti-European political bloc that aims to derail the nation’s planned European Union accession process. 

The bloc, called “Victory” and affiliated with fugitive oligarch Ilan Shor, aims to challenge President Maia Sandu and her pro-European government in elections due between October and mid-2025.  

The meeting took place in Moscow because Shor, coordinator and and financier of the participating parties, is subject to a 15-year prison term in Moldova for masterminding a scam that stole $1 billion from the country’s banking system. 

Shor is based in Israel, where he was born, and travels frequently to Moscow. Moldova has requested his extradition through Interpol. 

Moldova faces three crucial votes in just over a year. 

Its presidential election, in which Sandu will face a pro-Russian candidate in her bid for a second term, takes place Oct. 20. A pro-EU constitutional referendum is set for the same day, and parliamentary elections follow in the summer of 2025. 

Read more: Moldova’s President Faces Protests as New Pro-Russia Front Opens

Moldovan authorities have warned that the grouping around Shor is the main tool Moscow is using to try to destabilize the nation of over 3 million. According to special services, the group is the main source of anti-EU disinformation and attempts to disrupt life in Moldova through violence. 

“A whole country saw the traitors of the country in Moscow,” Andrei Spinu, minister of infrastructure and regional development and a member of the ruling party PAS, said on Facebook. “They were created in Moscow, near the Kremlin, to make it clear who they work for and who they serve.” 

The pro-Russian parties also control Moldova’s autonomous region of Gagauzia, wedged between Ukraine and Romania, and hope to turn the area into a breakaway state similar to Transnistria. That poses an ongoing security challenge for the central authorities in Chisinau. 

Gaguazia’s governor, Evghenia Gutul, is a frequent visitor to Moscow and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in March. Gutul announced after that visit that Moscow would pay each Gagauz state worker and pensioner 2,000 Moldovan lei ($112).  

“We have united to defend Moldova’s independence, to prevent our country from being dragged into military actions, to preserve our traditional values and to restore friendly relations with Russia,” Gutul said on Telegram following the weekend’s gathering. 

In the most recent opinion poll published in Chisinau, two of Shor’s affiliated parties - “Chance” and “Renaissance” - are said to have support running at 11.7%. Two other parties weren’t included in the poll because they’re still too small, and a fifth, the Shor Party, has been declared unconstitutional in Moldova. 

Shor’s coalition could, however, be joined by two other pro-Russian entities, the Socialist Party of former president Igor Dodon, which received 22.6% support in the latest poll, and the Party of Communists, credited with 6.8% support. 

For the presidential election, the poll gives Sandu a significant lead over Dodon, 35% to 16%. 

The poll was conducted in early April by the Centre for Sociological Research and Marketing on behalf of the the WatchDog.MD Community.

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