The visit to Bucharest made at the end of July by the President of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, highlights that the current government in Chisinau is facing an extremely delicate moment – intertwined crises that threaten the pro-European forces.
These crises were very clearly pointed out by President Sandu in an interview to hotnews.ro. Chisinau has been facing a natural gas crisis since the fall of last year, provoked by Gazprom’s decision to renegotiate the supply contract. Russia’s economic and energy blackmail not only puts massive pressure on Moldova’s finances, but also managed to revive the pro-Russian forces, which were left in shambles after the victories of Maia Sandu and PAS in the presidential and parliamentary elections. Without Moscow’s pressure, most likely, the remainders of the pro-Russian forces would have been atomized and almost reduced to irrelevance.
The second “ghost of destabilization” that haunts Chisinau is that of the Gagauz and Transnistrian separatists. If Tiraspol has always been a thorn in the side of Chisinau – the main lever of destabilization within Russia’s reach – Gagauzia instead seems to be a new entry in the arsenal of Moscow’s malign influence. I say seems to be, because, although it was not heavily discussed within the public space (especially the Romanian one), Gagauzia was, like Transnistria, a pro-Russian pole within the territory of the Republic of Moldova. Even a very superficial analysis proves this: 1. Gagauzia has always been a “bag” of pro-Russian voters, 2. The region has always had Baskans, for whom the relationship with Russia was more important than the one with the EU, 3. Like Transnistria, Gagauzia is a territory of sulphurous connections between politicians and organized crime groups (see the case of Viktor Petrov, as mentioned by Valeriu Paşa and Armand Goșu).
Last but not least, Maia Sandu and PAS face a coalition of forces of corrupt and pro-Russian politicians. The arrests of Stoianoglo, Dodon and Tauber have certainly disturbed circles of power and pro-Kremlin interests, who will make every effort to oust the pro-European government from Chisinau. One thing is certain, however: the anti-corruption actions of the government in Chisinau proved that Maia Sandu and PAS truly kept their main promise from the election campaign – the fight against corruption. And the government demonstrates one more thing that should weigh heavily on voters: no one is afraid to talk about corruption, the extent of this phenomenon (see the statements of the prosecutor Veronica Dragalin), nor to act against the corrupt politicians and businessmen.
As can be seen, the stability of the Republic of Moldova and that of the pro-European government is threatened by three major internal problems, which “feed” each other. Moreover, the war in Ukraine and the prospect of Odessa’s fall and the junction of Russian troops with Transnistria looms.
But let’s take each ghost at a time…
Don’t bother trying, you’ll never ever find A surer friend than Gazprom(English translation of a verse from a Gazprom promotional song; also available on YouTube)
The Republic of Moldova expects Russia to intensify its energy blackmail with the arrival of this year’s cold season, as does the rest of Europe. Unlike last year, Chisinau’s biggest problem this time is that each EU member-state is concerned with its own survival, and the Republic of Moldova could have serious difficulties in opposing Russian blackmail.
It is vital for Chisinau to identify new sources of natural gas and electricity supplies, especially since high prices lead to inflation (already at 30%) and significantly affect the population’s standard of living.
Again, this is where Romanian support for Chisinau steps in, Romania having already stated, through the voice of President Iohannis, that it will not abandon the Republic of Moldova. Most likely, Romania’s support will materialize at the right time, just as Romanian diplomacy acted decisively in Brussels for the Republic of Moldova to be granted the status of candidate country for EU accession (Maia Sandu ‘s statements).
In the fight against Gazprom, Chisinau should also invest in PR/ public communication meant to highlight in a simple and constant manner what “a good friend” the Russian company really is (short and clear campaigns like those that promoted COVID vaccines). Maia Sandu, Natalia Gavrilița and Igor Grosu have frequently pointed out that the current dependence on Gazprom is the work of communists and socialists who, for years in a row, have pawned off the future and energy security of the Republic of Moldova in order to remain in the good graces of the Kremlin.
Such PR campaigns are especially necessary in the event where the population would lack the means to assure their own proper living conditions, doubled by inflationary pressure massively reducing their purchasing power. Without such war-time communication, the electorate will not search the Internet for statements and explanations provided by the pro-European leaders, but instead will rally to those who claim that “we should not anger Russia”.
Special situations require special solutions, and a campaign of public shaming (door-to-door, so that the message reaches those who do not have access to TV and the Internet), to show the electorate that the pro-Russian forces are responsible for the galloping inflation and falling living standards, would counterbalance the pro-Kremlin narratives in Chisinau. On a much smaller scale, it would be a strategy similar to the one used by the US in the case of Russia’s war against Ukraine: publicly presenting the evidence and naming the culprits.
Satan sits in the Presidency!(Socialist MP Bogdan Țîrdea at a rally organized in Vulcănești, Găgăuzia/ July 30, 2022)
I think Russia will help us because we are Russian speakers. The Russians are almost here, maybe soon we will meet them […](Aleksandr Dinjos, deputy in the local Gagauz legislature, at a the same rally in Vulcănești)
In the interview to hotnews.ro, Maia Sandu pointed out that “there are certain destabilization attempts in Gagauzia by some people and some groups that we believe are working for foreign interests“. Beforehand, the topic of attempts to destabilize the Republic of Moldova, via Gagauzia, was also discussed by Armand Goșu – “Russia’s proxies from Transnistria and Gagauzia, they are also preparing something for autumn“.
At the same time, the article Russian Propaganda on Telegram: Narratives Targeting the Republic of Moldova (June 1, 2022) concluded the following, in addition to the evidence of anti-Romanianism and pro-Russianism emanating via Gagauz vectors on social media: “Moscow hopes that propaganda messages will strain the situation in the country and will increase the number of internal opponents (e.g., Comrat). The most suitable scenario for Russia would be one in which the authorities in Moldova gradually lose their authority, up to the point where their legitimacy can be, even violently, contested.” Basically, the conclusions presented by Maia Sandu and Natalia Gavrilița at the end of July 2022.
Gagauzia has been a source of destabilization not since 2022, but practically since the beginning of the existence of the Republic of Moldova as an independent state. In recent history, it is enough to remember the February 2014 referendum, in which the Gagauz people decided (over 98%) that the region would become independent if the Republic of Moldova loses its sovereignty (to be read – if Moldova unites with Romania). The Prime Minister at the time, Iurie Leancă, declared that the referendum was in defiance of the law, while Vlad Filat accused the PCRM of orchestrating the plebiscite, and the Chisinau media reported on the involvement of Russian intelligence services and Igor Dodon in instrumenting the referendum to destabilize the Republic of Moldova.
Also in 2014, in Comrat, two young men were sentenced to five years in prison for “giving support to foreign secret services for terrorist purposes and preparing to organize an illegal paramilitary formation“. A year later, media reported that Valeri Ianioglo (the deputy of the ex-Başkan, Mihail Formuzal) and Fiodor Găgăuz (Socialist MP) were preparing actions meant to destabilize the situation in Chisinau, in coordination with Renato Usatii and Igor Dodon (among others).
One name seems to appear quite often throughout this mini-history of recent Gagauz separatism: Igor Dodon. And he persistently paddles on the so-called danger of Romanian unionism.
Gagauzia is a grave security problem for the Republic of Moldova: the local politicians opposed the law prohibiting the use of pro-Russian symbolism, they demand consistent representation in the national parliament, and they orchestrate constant rallies against the central power in Chisinau.
The objective is a classic one: a revolt that starts from Comrat and turns into a revolution in Chisinau, then leads to the replacement of the pro-European forces. When might such a scenario materialize (if it does)? With an eventual fall of Odessa, and Russia’s junction with Transnistria.
(…) the people have only one alternative – to get rid of this disastrous leadership as quickly as possible. Early presidential and parliamentary elections should be organized, and the new government, a professional and patriotic one, should reduce the price of gas several times and significantly lower tariffs for end consumers(Igor Dodon – Facebook – August 1, 2022)
PAS and Maia Sandu came to power in Chisinau on firm promises to fight corruption and clean up the judicial and law enforcement systems. The first evidence of their determination to honour their electoral commitments was the arrest on October 5, 2021 of prosecutor-general Aleksandr Stoianoglo – an event exploited by Russian propaganda to claim that the government in Chisinau is acting against ethnic minorities through politically motivated corruption cases.
At the end of May 2022, former president Igor Dodon was also arrested on charges of corruption and treason. This moment was practically a cold shower for all the oligarchic forces in the Republic of Moldova, who suddenly realized that the current government no longer follows any of the old “way of doing things”: intangible politicians, corruption schemes that no one talks about and the maintenance of the Russian influence rings in Moldova.
Against this background, we are currently witnessing a nascent coalition of pro-Russians/ corrupt people.
It is important to note that, even with the virulent reaction of this coalition, the government does not back down and continues to take measures meant to “upset” (the most recent one – banning the Russian singer Filip Kirkorov, witness in the Tauber corruption case and a “pawn” in the destabilization attempt that Ilan Şor and Veaceslav Platon plotted for June 18/19, from entering Moldova).
Especially in the context of the war in Ukraine, such measures denote that, perhaps for the first time since independence, Chisinau is led by leaders who implement their policies all the way through.
A close look at all these potential crises looming over Chisinau shows that the Socialists are the most active vector against Maia Sandu/ PAS. They are the ones who attack the government on the natural gas question, they are also present in Gagauzia with messages of incitement to civil disobedience and revolution, and Igor Dodon is the most active in calling for the resignation of the government/ president (or violent overthrow).
Dodon is directly interested in the fall of the current leaders, since this is his only chance to get rid of the criminal charges concerning him and those close to him.
His desperation to “carry out the revolution” is reflected by his transformation into a blatant vector of disinformation (PAS and Maia Sandu want to ration water / Facebook, July 30; We have learned from reliable sources that some representatives of the power have already sent their resumes to the IMF and the World Bank in the hope of getting some work. They understand that in the fall they will not be able to face the anger of the people and are already planning to flee from Moldova/ Facebook, July 19), soapy-on-Kremlin’s-liking character (As Putin recently said, there are many parties, the Fatherland is just one/ Rossia 24 ) or a combination of the two (the PAS government and the Presidency support the LGBT parade of homosexuals, who are a foreign element to our Christian values and cultivate a wrong and perverse thinking in young people, anti-family, anti-natality, anti-demography / Facebook, June 15).
All these propaganda narratives and destabilization attempts will remain futile if Russia does not occupy Odesa and/or Chisinau is able to secure its energy resources.
The pro-Russian conduct on the part of the Socialists/ Dodon can be read in the following key, favourable to Moscow: the Republic of Moldova must be destabilized from within (exacerbation of tensions related to inflation/ prices and the risk of running out of natural gas), and then, a Moldova burdened by violent confrontations can be Moscow’s reason for an assault on Odesa, with the aim of reaching Transnistria in order to defend the Russians there, oppressed by the Russophobic government in Chisinau.