(Bloomberg) -- Moldovan prosecutors filed corruption charges against the pro-Russian leader of an autonomous region as concerns mount about Kremlin efforts to destabilize the nation’s path into the European Union. 

Evghenia Gutul, the governor of Moldova’s Gagauzia region, was accused of accepting more than 42 million lei ($2.4 million) in illicit funding from Russia, according to a statement from anti-corruption prosecutors on Wednesday. 

The regional leader rejected the accusations, saying in a post on Telegram that the criminal case was “fabricated.” She faces up to seven years in prison or a fine for the violations. 

The governor is part of a group of five parties funded by fugitive oligarch Ilan Shor that formed an anti-European political bloc in Moscow this week. Their aim is to derail the EU agenda of Moldovan President Maia Sandu, who will seek reelection later this year.

Gutul has traveled to Moscow and met with President Vladimir Putin this year. She leads Gagauzia, a region in southern Moldova that’s sought increased autonomy from the government in Chisinau. The former Soviet republic already contends with the breakaway region of Transnistria, which along with Gagauzia has sought backing from Moscow. 

The Russian government is using an array of measures, including AI-generated deep fakes to bags of cash, to undermine democratic institutions in Moldova, Moldova’s foreign minister, Mihai Popsoi, told Bloomberg in an interview this week. He called the landlocked nation of 2.6 million a “sort of a petri dish of Russian hybrid warfare and election meddling.” 

Gutul is charged with accepting funds from an organized criminal group and introducing illicit money into Moldova. On Tuesday, police in the capital Chisinau said they confiscated more than 20 million lei following searches at the airport as the Shor-linked group returned from Moscow. 

(Adds Gutul’s reaction in third paragraph.)

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.