HAPPENING THIS WEEK
Greetings from Chişinău! Here’s what’s happening this week: our feature story takes us to the village of Grozesti – the hometown of ousted oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, to see what the local people have to say about their elected representative. Moldova’s National Day of Mourning for the thousands of victims of Soviet-era deportations leaves ZdG’s Politics Editor asking, didn’t Stalin die? And as revelations continue to emerge from the Kroll-2 report, we give you a close reading of the latest leaks. Ahead of ZdG’s fifteen-year anniversary edition on July 25, we also share some of our favorite messages from our readers, who told us about their hopes for the future. It’s been a busy week for Moldova in international affairs, so the foreign brief gets you up to speed on the latest in foreign investment, the Prime Minister’s official visit to Kyiv, negotiations on the Transnistria Settlement resuming this autumn, plus what experts have to say about potential military cooperation between Moldova and Russia. Back in Chişinău, ZdG investigates the acquittal of a former judge in the criminal “referendum case,” as well as the possible misuse of public funds in the construction of the “Arena Chişinău” project. And finally, our roundup of opinions, analysis and events about Moldova from around the world. All and that and more in this week’s newsletter. Happy reading!
THIS WEEK’S FEATURE
PLAHOTNIUC’S VILLAGE: Despite announcing his resignation from the leadership of Moldova’s Democratic Party (PDM) and fleeing the country, oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc still retains his mandate as the parliamentary deputy for the Nisporeni constituency no. 17. This includes his home village, Grozesti, so ZdG’s team decided to travel there and speak with the locals. Plahotniuc has said he has no intention of giving up his mandate as deputy, but has been notably absent from parliamentary meetings and has now fled abroad. So is he still honouring his electoral promises? We checked in with the people of Grozesti to find out what Plahotniuc has done for their village. Want to see Plahotniuc’s home village for yourself? Check our video from Grozesti in Romanianor Russian.
FROM THE EDITORS
DIDN’T STALIN DIE?: July 6 marks the National Day of Mourning in Moldova, to commemorate the thousands of victims of Stalinist deportations from Bessarabia in the 1940s and 1950s. Three waves of deportations resulted in over 87,000 people from the region being exiled to Siberia and Kazakhstan, but in Moldova’s 30 years of independence successive governments have done little to redress these crimes. ZdG’s Politics Editor Petru Grozavu examines what Moldova’s governments have done to commemorate the country’s victims of Stalinist repressions, and asks whether anything has really changed since the Soviet era.
KROLL-2 CLOSEUP: How many billion were stolen from Moldova in 2014? And is there any hope of getting the money back? ZdG writer Daniela Bechet takes a closer look at the Kroll-2 report, including the pages omitted from the public release.
ZDG ANNIVERSARY: Ahead of ZdG’s special edition to mark the paper’s fifteenth anniversary on July 25, the newspaper asked readers to write in and share their dreams. Many sent well-wishes and asked ZdG’s journalists to take care, “After all the truth you write about, you are sure to make enemies,” one reader wrote. Here are some of our favorite messages from our audience.
THE FOREIGN BRIEF
SANDU VISITS KYIV: “Ukraine will provide enormous support so the territories of our states won’t be occupied by the Russian Armed Forces,” said Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy inKyiv during the official visit of Moldova’s Prime Minister Maia Sandu. While President Zelenskyy announced his plans to participate in the negotiation process of the Transnistrian settlement, Prime Minister Sandu promised that “Moldova will become a partner and a trustworthy neighbor” of Ukraine. Moldova’s Prime Minister will depart for her next official visit on July 16, to go to Berlin at the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
FOREIGN INVESTMENT: Prime Minister Maia Sandu announced that Moldova will receive $46.5 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2019. The announcement was made following talks with an IMF representative in Chişinău, during which the two parties agreed to extend the financial assistance program to Moldova until March 2020. Earlier, on July 8, USAID confirmed its intention to provide Moldova with an additional $29 million in development assistance.
TRANSNISTRIA TALKS: Negotiations in the 5+2 format on the Transnistrian Settlement are set to resume this autumn, announced Claus Neukirch, head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Moldova Mission. The 5+2 negotiations format includes representatives of Moldova and the Transnistrian Region, as well as observers from the OSCE, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, the European Union and the United States. The last round of negotiations took place in May 2018, resulting in the signing of the Rome Protocol, which established a series of understandings and obligations for the two parties. Read the joint statement from the mediators and observers here.
DEFENSE COOPERATION: Russia’s Ambassador to Moldova Oleg Vasnetsov met with Moldova’s Minister of Defense Pavel Voicu this week to exchange opinions on the security situation in the region, as well as Chişinău’s military policies. During the meeting, the Russian diplomatic mission stated that Russia is open to military cooperation with Moldova. However, given the continued presence of Russian troops in the Transnistria region – a result of a frozen conflict between Russia and Moldova going on since 1992 – many people objected to the idea of collaboration “on the defense issue.” Here’s what the experts, lawmakers and others think.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: This week, USAID representative Brock Bierman visited Moldova, spending a day with U.S. Ambassador Dereck J. Hogan as tourists at Moldova’s UNESCO World Heritage site, Orheiul Vechi, and seeing the results of American investment in the region. Meanwhile, U.S. Undersecretary of State David Hale was in Chişinău on July 13-14 to meet with Prime Minister Maia Sandu and other politicians. Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicwas also in Moldova’s capital on an official visit this week, at the invitation of Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu, to discuss the possible elimination roaming tariffs between Moldova and E.U. countries. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has named Steven Fisher as the country’s new Ambassador to Moldova starting in September 2019, and a number of Moldova’s own Ambassadors and Consuls have been recalled as their terms in office come to an end.
THE REFERENDUM CASE: Following an examination of the criminal case against Domnica Manole, the Chişinău District Court has acquitted the ex-judge. Based on three witness statements – including that of the new Minister of Internal Affairs, Andrei Nastase – the prosecutor found no evidence that Judge Manole intended to issue a decision contrary to the law. Nastase was previously accused of influencing Judge Manole’s decision in the original referendum case, but he claimed that he had not met her before she examined the case and made no attempt to influence her, “either directly or indirectly.”
ARENA CHIŞINĂU: At the request of the Prime Minister, Moldova’s Ministry of Finance and Ministry of the Economy are going to be investigating the possible misuse of public funds and government land in the building of the “Arena Chişinău” project. According to Prime Minister Sandu, there is no documentation as of yet to justify the €43 million cost of the project, nor the allocation of 69 hectares of government land when the construction only occupies ten hectares. Former democratic leader Vlad Plahotniuc first announced the project in 2018. And until the reported abuses are properly documented, construction on the arena is set to continue.
MOLDOVA IN WORLD NEWS
ANALYSIS: For Balkan Insight, Marc Behrendt and Gina S. Lentine of Freedom House give their take on the potential for democratic reforms following the political and constitutional crisis in Moldova. In their words, “a captured state does not relinquish power often or easily,” so the country has a lot of work ahead of it to implement meaningful, democratic changes. The best thing international partners can do is insist on reforming weak institutions, while civic actors must work to hold the new government honest and accountable.
PRESS FREEDOM: In 2019, Moldova saw a steep decline in press freedom and “journalists have complained of an opaque and inaccessible government, an oligarch-ridden media landscape with poor journalistic standards, and harassment by the authorities.” But the installation of a new government and the flight of oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc has left Moldova’s journalists cautiously optimistic that things could change. That being said, unless Plahotniuc’s assets are frozen, he could continue to control the television market in absentia. Maxim Edwards reports for Global Voices.
DISINFORMATION: Ahead of Moldova’s parliamentary elections in 2019, tips from civil society actors led Facebook to remove over 100 accounts and pages engaging in “coordinate inauthentic behavior targeting people in Moldova.” But as Lolita Berzina writes for Freedom House, it wasn’t enough to combat the scale of disinformation campaigns threatening the country’s fragile democracy. In addition to allow pro-Russian forces to undermine Moldova’s pro-E.U. orientation, disinformation poses a real challenge for normal citizens trying to develop informed political opinions.
Thank you for your continued interest! To keep up with our Moldova coverage throughout the week, you can follow us on Twitter @ZiarulDe or at zdg.md/eng for our latest stories in English. More subscription options coming soon. Until next week!
– Cristina Carmanu, Eilish Hart, Daniela Bechet, Maksym Eristavi and others from the ZdG Newsroom. Created with support from the Russian Language News Exchange.
Moldova, Explained by ZdG, July 15 2019, Newsletter No. 5.