Monday, April 26, 2010

Possible gay rights parade causes stir

Gay rights organizations in Moldova have announced plans to organize a parade in downtown Chisinau on May 2.

This announcement has caused a big stir in Moldovan political and religious circles. The Moldovan Metropolitan has asked that the manifestation be banned because it would be "a direct attack on social and ethical norms" and because it would be "shameful."

Chisinau city council members also circulated a letter addressed to mayor Dorin Chirtoaca, asking him to ban the demonstration because it would impose the normality of "abnormal sexual practices" on society. The only city councilor who refused to sign was independent Oleg Cernei, who said the letter had been written by Christian Democrat leader Iurie Rosca, whom he dislikes. The letter seems to have united people across the political spectrum - both Communists and anti-Communists signed it.

Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoaca has said that every Moldovan citizen has the right to free assembly no matter what they believe in. He therefore seems unlikely to cancel the parade. His position has been supported by a number of human rights NGOs.

Whatever happens, if the gay parade is held in Chisinau, it is likely to bring out a lot of counter-protesters, mostly from religious organizations. Police officers always have to be present in large numbers because there are occasional clashes.

Alliance fights over sending Moldovan soldiers to WWII parade, President refuses to go to Moscow

The ruling Alliance for European Integration (AEI) has been embroiled in an internal conflict recently over whether to send Moldovan military staff to a parade in Moscow celebrating 65 years since the Soviet victory in the war.

Initially, the Defense Minister announced that Chisinau would not send troops because authorities did not have any money and because Moldovan soldiers would attend the May 9 celebrations in Moldova. This prompted AEI officials like Prime Minister Vlad Filat to say that Chisinau would, in fact, send military staff over to Moscow.

Democratic Party honorary head Dumitru Diacov argued that Liberal Party head and interim President Mihai Ghimpu ordered the Defense Ministry to keep Moldovan soldiers from participating in the parade in Moscow. The Liberal Party appointed the Defense Minister after the seat distribution within the coalition. The Liberals generally have a very critical position toward the Soviet past and toward Russian policy in Moldova.

Just yesterday, Mr. Ghimpu, reacting to the rest of the Alliance arguing for Moldovan soldiers attending the parade, told Radio Vocea Basarabiei that he now refuses to go to Moscow in protest of this decision. "How can I attend a parade next to the army that brought Communism to us, organized a famine, and deported us to Siberia," Mr. Ghimpu asked.

This recent debate points to the emerging conflict within the ruling Alliance as early legislative elections have now become unavoidable and will most likely take place within a year. Since the coalition is so heterogeneous ideologically, its members are likely to take divergent positions with regards to controversial issues in Moldova, like Romanian identity, foreign policy toward Russia, and position toward the Party of Communists.

It also shows the ambiguous position Moldovan society has toward World War II. Many pro-Romanian politicians and regular citizens believe the Soviet Union was an occupying force and refuse to celebrate the USSR's victory over Nazi Germany because they argue another dictatorship simply took over Moldova after World War II ended. On the other hand, many pro-Russian politicians and regular citizens argue Moldova was liberated by the Soviet forces.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Separatists threaten to shut down Romanian-language schools in the region

Separatist authorities in Transnistria have threatened to shut down the Alexandru cel Bun high school in Tighina (Bender), which is located on territory controlled by breakaway authorities but is under the subordination of Chisinau. Transnistrians have said the high school has violated health codes.

Promo Lex, an NGO that defends human rights in the region, said in an April 15 statement that „on March 31, 2010, the hygiene and epidemiology center in Tighina /.../ released a notice to the high school /.../ threatening to shut down the school after April 15, 2010 because some health codes have been allegedly violated.”

Analysts have suggested that the move could have been planned by incumbent Transnistrian President Igor Smirnov, who is trying to rally public opinion behind him as his popularity has been decreasing after his candidates lost local elections in March 2010. Transnistria will hold legislative elections at the end of 2010.

The separatists have shut down Romanian-language schools in the region before. In the summer of 2004, they closed the eight schools that taught in Romanian in the region. The schools were later given licenses, but they continue to rent and, therefore, depend on the whims of Transnistrian authorities.

In most schools in the region, Russian and Ukrainian are used as primary languages. There are some that still teach Romanian in cyrillic, which was the alphabet imposed on Soviet Moldova during the Communist period.

Poll: Communists - 30%; LibDems - 14%; Dems - 10%; Libs - 7%; Undecideds - 26%

A new poll by CBS AXA, ordered by the Viitorul Institute for Development and Social Initiatives, shows that if elections were to be held next Sunday, the Party of Communists would receive 30.3 percent of the vote, followed by the Liberal Democratic Party (14 percent), the Democratic Party (10.8 percent), the Liberal Party (7.4 percent), and the Moldova Noastra [Our Moldova] Alliance (1.2 percent). All of the other parties would receive less than one percent.

About 26 percent do not know who they would vote for or did not want to answer. At the same time, the most trusted politician in the country is Democratic Party leader Marian Lupu (56.9 percent said they trust him), followed by Prime Minister Vlad Filat (44.5 percent), Communist leader Vladimir Voronin (40.6 percent), Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoac─â (37.3 percent), and interim President Mihai Ghimpu (25 percent).

The poll indicates that the situation in the next Parliament will not change significantly. If legislators do not change the Constitution to either allow the President to be elected by the people or with a simple majority instead of three-fifths, as it is today, a stalemate over the presidential election similar to the current one could emerge again.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Prosecutors open criminal investiation into another protester death in April 2009

The General Prosecutor's (GP) office has announced that it has opened a criminal investigation into the death of Ion Tibuleac, an anti-Communist protester who was allegedly killed by police forces on April 7, 2009 or during that period.

Thus far, authorities have only investigated one other death - that of Valeriu Boboc - and have detained one police officer suspected of killing him.

The GP has emphasized that two other deaths suspected to have been related to the April repression occurred in March 2009.

JurnalTV has, however, recently released a report in which the father of a 31-year-old man said his son had been severely beaten by the police while in custody after April 7 and died two months later from related complications. Authorities have not yet reacted to this report.

It is unclear how many other cases like these will emerge, since many relatives of beaten protesters are afraid to file charges against police officers.

Transnistrian journalist arrested by authorities, accused of treason

Transnistrian journalist Ernest Vardanean was arrested a few days ago by the separatist authorities.

Mr. Vardanean is accused of treason and espionage, for which he can serve up to 20 years in prison.

Moldovan authorities have expressed their disapproval of the move, but they do not hold control over the territory. A number of NGOs have also released a statement asking that Mr. Vardanean be set free.

Transnistrian authorities may be clamping down on critics as presidential and legislative elections in the region are coming up.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

(ANALYSIS) Moldova commemorates April 7 repression as one of the suspected killers of an anti-Communist protester is detained

The last few days in the country have been dominated by campaigns to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the anti-Communist protests on April 7 and the repression campaign that followed.

On April 7, peaceful protests degenerated into the vandalization of the Parliamentary and Presidential buildings, as well as clashes between demonstrators and police forces. It is still unclear who the perpetrators were, as many have suggested that provocators were infiltrated in the crowd to derail the anti-Communist demonstration.

What is known, however, is that the repression campaign that followed on the night of April 7 and for a few days after ended with the detention of over 700 people, the torture of about 300, and a number of deaths.

The death of Valeriu Boboc, a young father and husband, has been the most covered by Moldovan media outlets. Mr. Boboc was most likely beaten to death by police forces in downtown Chisinau on the night of April 7. Initially, Communist authorities at the time suggested that the protester had died because of an intoxication with an unknown substance, but this announcement was widely rejected after pictures of Mr. Boboc's dead body showed a large dent in his head and numerous bruises.

This weekend, details about Mr. Boboc's death may have surfaced. Liberal Party head Mihai Ghimpu, who is Speaker and interim President, as well as Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoaca (the deputy head of the Liberal Party) recently presented previously unseen footage from the night of April 7, which shows police forces savagely beating protesters and throwing them in cars. At one point in the 11-minute film, shot from the top of the Government building, two motionless bodies are lying on the ground. One of the bodies is assumed to have been Valeriu Boboc's, who just a few seconds before was kicked in the head by a police officer dressed in a sweatsuit.

The other body was Damian Hincu's. Mr. Hincu is a student at a French university, and survived the beatings. Shocking pictures of his body, black and blue from police abuse, began to circulate in media outlets almost immediately after April 7, showing the harshness of the repression campaign on that night and in police stations later.

Mr. Hincu later said that he was afraid he was going to die, and asked someone to give his belongings to his mother should that happen. He also spoke about the abuses that occurred in police stations as young men and women were beaten until unconscious and were not allowed to see a lawyer. A number of judges held trials in these stations, which is unconstitutional. One judge has been fired because of this.

Mr. Hincu's mother was later told by police offers to go to the morgue to find his son despite the fact that he was not dead. Numerous parents had similar experiences, as they began looking for their missing children on April 8 and on. At the time, television stations showed these parents waiting desperately outside of police stations, begging police officers to tell them where their children were.

Mr. Hincu has recently decided to reveal his identity and to testify in Valeriu Boboc's case if he gets protection. He has also told the press that he can recognize the faces of a few police officers that beat him and Mr. Boboc, some of whom said "this guy's finished," referring to Mr. Boboc's lifeless body.

Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoaca has already offered prosecutors a number of names of police officers who were allegedly beating protesters in downtown Chisinau, including former Chisinau police chief Iacob Gumenita. The footage the Liberal representatives presented shows faces relatively clearly. Another tape, this time with footage captured on the ground, also reveals the faces of tens of police officers chasing young men and women and beating them.

In the political community, the members of the ruling Alliance, which the Communists accused of attempting to stage a coup d'etat at the time, have condemned the violent actions of the police and have announced that one police officer suspected of killing Mr. Boboc has been arrested. Several others have been suspended. Interior Minister Victor Catan has accused Communist-appointed Interior Minister Gheorghe Papuc of calling in special forces to beat protesters on that night. Mr. Papuc has been unable to testify in a number of cases filed against him by prosecutors by claiming health problems and checking himself into the hospital at the end of March.

In contrast, the Party of Communists released a press statement accusing the ruling coalition of turning the "April 7 pogrom into a national holiday" and arguing that "the coup d'etat continues." In addition, the head of an organization that protects the rights of security forces has accused the Alliance of being biased in the presentation of police action on the night of April 7 and has accused Mr. Boboc of having a criminal record.

After one entire year, Moldova looks somewhat different in April 2010. The Communists are in the opposition, the former opposition parties have formed an Alliance, and some police officers are being investigated for abuses.

There are, however, more questions than answers. It is still unclear why the protests turned violent and who ordered the repression campaign. Chances are that these answers will not be swiftly forthcoming since Moldova could be on the brink of another early electoral campaign for Parliament. In a year, local elections will also be held.

The most serious consequence of April 7, however, is the physical and psychological abuse to which young, educated, and pro-Western people were subjected in downtown Chisinau and in police stations. They were and continue to be the main victims of a country in which democracy, the rule of law, and human rights are still lacking.

Alliance and Communists begin constitutional battle to change Article 78

The ruling Alliance for European Integration announced this weekend that it would submit a proposal to change Article 78 in the Constitution to the Constitutional Court, which would require for the head of state in the country to be directly elected by the people.

Right now, Article 78 says that the President needs to be elected by three fifths of M.P.s in Parliament (61 out of 101). This requirement has caused a stalemate between the anti-Communists and the Communists in the legislature, since both after elections on April 5 and on July 29, neither group had a 61-seat majority.

The Communists have earlier submitted a different proposal to change the Constitution, asking for the head of state's election in Parliament in three rounds. The first round would require 61 votes, then 57, then 52.

The Party of Communists has been a vocal opponent of the direct election of the President. Analysts have suggested that this opposition comes from the fact that the party currently has no visible national leader that could win the election. In contrast, the Democratic Party is headed by Communist defector Marian Lupu, who is most likely to win a direct election.

About 70 percent of Moldovans would like to elect their President directly, according to recent polls.

The country's first and second presidents - Mircea Snegur and Petru Lucinschi - were elected directly. In 2000, the Communists and the Christian Democrats united to change the Constitution and have the head of state be elected by the legislature. Vladimir Voronin was elected in this way twice - in 2001 and 2005.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Interim President and Chisinau mayor release new footage of mass repression campaign on night of April 7 showing police forces beating protesters

Interim President Mihai Ghimpu and Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoaca held a press conference today, during which they presented a new 11-minute video shot in front of the Government on the night of April 7.

The recording shows hundreds of police officers and special forces hitting and kicking protesters senseless. At one point, the camera shoots a protester's body lying on the ground, who is not moving. Mr. Ghimpu and Mr. Chirtoaca suggested that that could be Valeriu Boboc, the young protester who was beaten to death on the night of April 7. Mr. Boboc's alleged body was later put in the back of a pick-up truck and taken to the hospital.

The two officials also suggest that Chisinau's police chief at the time - Iacob Gumenita - also showed up in front of the Government building and kicked protesters. Mr. Gumenita was fired when the ruling Alliance for European Integration took power. Mr. Ghimpu and Mr. Chirtoaca also suggested a number of names of police officers who were probably beating protesters. The faces of the attackers are difficult to identify because of the grainy footage.

Mr. Ghimpu and Mr. Chirtoaca said that it is still unclear who ordered the repression campaign, although former Communist President Vladimir Voronin told the press that the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which seems to have coordinated the actions, was acting based on his orders.

No person has yet been convicted for beating protesters last year.

In a related news story, current Chisinau police chief Serghei Cociorva resigned today after meeting with Prime Minister Vlad Filat and after the new tape of the repression was released. Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoaca has accused Mr. Cociorva of being a part of the repression campaign in April.

The video can be seen on a number of websites, including Unimedia.md, www.stireazilei.md, and www.protv.md

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Moldova-born man dies in Moscow metro explosions

Anton Mikryukov, a Moldova-born 32-year-old man, has been listed by Russian authorities as having died as a result of the Moscow metro explosions yesterday.

It is still unclear who the perpetrators were during two attacks on the Russian metro system, but Moscow has suggested terrorism.

No further information about Mr. Mikryukov has been provided yet.

Moldova first place in CIS in amount of minutes spoken on the telephone with Russia

According to Russian research organization ComNews Research, our of every CIS country and Georgia, Moldova takes first place when it comes to the duration of telephone calls per person coming from Russia.

The average duration of a phone conversation from Russia to Moldova lasts 46 minutes. According to the organization, more than 170,000 Moldovans live in Russia at the moment.

Many are migrant workers concentrated in large cities like Moscow. Some are currently working in Sochi, which will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

Transnistria holds local elections, election observers from other separatist republics say poll went smoothly

The breakaway republic of Transnistria held local elections on March 28.

Turnout reached 43.36 percent, well over the minimum 25 percent necessary for validation.

Election observers from Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh, all of which are contested separatist republics themselves, said that the poll had gone smoothly and without any problems.

Moldova does not recognize Transnistrian elections.

No results are available yet.

In sign of letting go of combative attitude, Communists announce modernization plan

The Party of Communists (PC) announced this weekend that it sought to implement what it called the Moldovan Project, which seeks to develop ties with civil society and propose ideas for the future of the Moldovan state.

The PC also presented its own nine-member shadow cabinet.

PC head and former President Vladimir Voronin (2001-2009) has previously said that although the party has always gotten a large number of votes during elections, it has had little visible political support in society. Mr. Voronin is most likely talking about the fact that anti-Communist rallies and protests have always gathered a very large number of people compared to the Moldovans who have shown up to Communist gatherings.

Mr. Voronin suggested that this situation could exist because his party has ignored this type of political engagement with society and because there might be a "silent majority" in Moldova that is difficult to mobilize but seeks benefits from any government, no matter what its political identity.

Political analysts have said that this new project signals that the PC is trying to find a way to modernize and promote young people at the helm. But most doubt the Communists will be able to become more like a European social democratic party, or at least shed more of its post-Soviet dominant party identity, as long as Mr. Voronin heads it.

The PC has, ever since it has become a visible political force in Moldovan politics toward the end of the 1990s, taken a very combative approach toward its political opponents, which culminated in accusations that the anti-Communist forces tried to stage a coup in April 2009.

The Communists might have changed their tone after realizing that it will be extremely difficult for them to win a majority of seats in Parliament during the next early elections. So they are probably trying to send messages to potential allies like the Democratic Party and the Moldova Unita [United Moldova] Party.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Police say they found explosive materials at homes of Communist sympathizers in Balti; Communists accuse Alliance of detaining "political prisoners"

Earlier this week, the General Prosecutor's office announced that security forces found weapons, munitions, and explosive materials in the homes of two Communist sympathizers in the city of Balti. Balti is the largest city in the north and the second largest in the country. It has been a Communist stronghold for a long time, and the current mayor there is a member of the Party of Communists (PC).

The two young men - Sergiu Blajevschi and Eugen Iachimov - are part of a boxing club. One of them is a PC member.

Communist M.P. Mark Tkaciuk has reacted to the accusations by saying that police forces in the country are following the orders of the ruling Alliance for European Integration (AEI), and called Mr. Blajevschi and Mr. Iachimov "political prisoners."

Justice Minister Alexandru Tanase has denied these accusations.

Government announces plan to modernize Moldova, gets 2.6 billion dollars from foreign donors and European institutions

The Moldovan Government recently announced a program entitled Rethink Moldova, which seeks to modernize the country by ensuring responsible governance, economic recovery and development, and investments in human capital.

During a meeting with European officials in Brussels today, Prime Minister Vlad Filat signed the modernization plan today and received 2.6 billion U.S. dollars from foreign donors and European institutions.

The money will go toward numerous infrastructure projects, good governance, and education.

This is the largest amount of money Chisinau has ever received from foreign donors and is a considerable outpouring of financial support that suggests the European Union is seeking to play a more proactive role in the country.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Communist leader: Anti-Communist protester who died on April 7, 2009 was thrown from the Parliament window

Party of Communists (PC) head and former President (2001-2009) Vladimir Voronin said during a televised interview on ProTV that Valeriu Boboc, the young anti-Communist protester who was killed on April 7, was beaten and then thrown out of a Parliament window.

On that day, a number of violent protesters vandalized the Parliamentary and Presidential buildings. Communist authorities then initiated a mass repression campaign than ended in the detention of 700 people and the torture of 300 of them, according to a Soros report.

The official version about Mr. Boboc's death is that he was beaten by special forces on the night of April 7.

h/t www.stireazilei.md

Seemingly backing down from comprehensive constitutional reform, Alliance focuses in on changing mode of presidential election instead

The ruling Alliance for European Integration (AEI) has, in the last few weeks, been issuing an array of statements that have varied from promises of a speedy referendum to pick a new Constitution to predictions of the inevitability of early legislative elections.

Things seem to be settling down now, as the AEI, along with a number of non-affiliated M.P.s in the legislature, has decided to create a special commission to change Article 78 in the current Constitution.

Right now, the head of state needs 61 out of 101 votes to get elected. Neither the Alliance, nor the AEI have that number of M.P.s, and that is why the country already went through an early legislative poll in July 2009.

Currently, the Liberal Party and Moldova Unita [United Moldova] Party representatives seem to be leaning toward electing the President with a simple majority of votes, while the Liberal Democratic, the Democratic Party, and Moldova Noastra [Our Moldova] want a direct election.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Veteran Communist leaves party, calls it "anti-national"

Iacob Timciuc, one of the oldest members of the Party of Communists (PC) announced today that he is leaving the party.

Mr. Timciuc accused the PC of turning into an "anti-national" party because a small group has taken over and promotes certain people in the ranks.

During the same day, Communist M.P. Svetlana Popa announced she is quitting the party's executive political office and accused leading Communist Mark Tkaciuk of turning the party into a business. Mr. Tkaciuk used to be former President Vladimir Voronin's advisor, and is a close ally of Mr. Voronin's.

The PC initially had 48 M.P.s in Parliament. Five have left, four of which went on to take over the Moldova Unita [United Moldova] Party, a left-wing group.

(ANALYSIS) Will Moldova hold early elections?

The Alliance for European Integration's (AEI) recent announcement that it would seek to change the Moldovan Constitution via a referendum led to a series of speculations about whether this plan would allow the country to avoid yet another early legislative election. Interim President Mihai Ghimpu certainly seems to think so, but his other coalition partners are less sanguine about the possibility.

The AEI is hoping to move very quickly in the next few months, come up with a project for a new Constitution, and then ask Moldovans to vote on it during the summer. In theory, the new Constitution would not require for Parliament to be dissolved and the Alliance could stay in power for the full four years.

Most analysts are skeptical about this plan, however, and Alliance members themselves seem to be backing down from the intention already. The Venice Commision recently released a notice recommending that Parliament be dismissed by June 16 and that new elections be called. Prime Minister Vlad Filat immediately replied that given this institution's position, "early elections are inevitable."

In a related news story, Communist head Vladimir Voronin has announced that his party would be willing to help change the article on the presidential election if the Alliance calls early elections. At the moment, the head of state needs to be elected with the vote of 61 M.P.s. Neither the Communists nor the Alliance have that number. The president could be elected with a simple majority if the ruling coalition and the opposition agree.

In short, it looks like the Alliance's early announcement about a referendum may not materialize given the reluctance of European institutions to accept it. For this reason, the Party of Communists (PC) seems to have scored a short-term gain because it has been the most vocal supporter of early elections. The PC can also position itself as being in full agreement with the Venice Commission. On the other hand, the ruling Alliance could very well argue to its electorate that it sought constitutional change but had to change plans because European institutions disagreed.

Whatever the case may be, it still remains unclear whether Moldova will have early elections. The possibility is certainly higher now that the Alliance is seemingly going to have to convince both the Communists and European institutions that the adoption of a new Constitution very soon is a good idea.

Monday, March 15, 2010

After April unrest, Communists were planning on buying half-million-dollar crowd-control vehicle that shot water, teargas, and paint

After the April unrest, when anti-Communist protests degenerated into vandalism of the Parliament and Presidential buildings, the Party of Communists was looking into buying crowd-control vehicles.

This revelation was made after the current Alliance for European Integration published a secret document in which then-President Vladimir Voronin asked cabinet officials to investigate the matter.

One of the vehicles would have cost nearly half a million dollars, and would have been able to shoot water, teargas, and paint on protesters.

h/t www.stireazilei.md

Norway to provide facilitated visa regime for Moldovans

Deputy Prime Minister Iurie Leanca was in Norway this weekend, where he met with local officials.

Mr. Leanca announced that Norwegian authorities have pledged to offer Moldovans a facilitated visa regime.

One of the most important goals of the ruling Alliance for European Integration is to ultimately convince the European Union to allow Moldovans to visit Europe without visas.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Defense Ministry planning to get rid of Soviet-era army uniforms, posts new designs online

Defense Minister Vitalie Marinuta recently posted an announcement on the Ministry's website (www.army.md), announcing that the Government seeks to change the Moldovan military's uniforms.

"The specific nature of some activities and missions requires changing the equipment norms of National Army military staff. At the same time, National Army military members are equipped with uniforms based on Soviet-era models, which are not different from the uniforms of militaries in the Commonwealth of Independent States. This situation create confusion during certain international activities in which Moldovan military staff participate," Mr. Marinuta said.

The Minister has also asked Moldovans to express their opinions on the matter on the Ministry's website.

Moldovans will not be able to get work permits for Czech Republic

According to a recent announcement by Czech officials, non-E.U. guest workers will no longer be able to get work permits for the country.

The Czech Republic is struggling with an unemployment rate that may soon reach double digits and is trying to contain the crisis.

No data exists on how many Moldovans work in the country, but over 200,000 foreign laborers reside there.

Alliance: New Constitution and no new elections

Leaders of the Alliance for European Integration (AEI) agreed on March 9 to have Parliament adopt a new Constitution. The new document will have to be adopted via a referendum by June 16, which would have been the deadline to dismiss the legislature according to the old Constitution because legislators failed to elect a president.

Liberal Party (LP) head Mihai Ghimpu, who is also Speaker and interim President, said after the AEI meeting that the adoption of a new Constitution will allow Chisinau to avoid early elections.

The former ruling Party of Communists (PC) has accused the Alliance of attempting to usurp power and announced it would organize a referendum of its own to give a no-confidence vote to the current Moldovan leadership.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tiraspol: Chisinau's announcement of official resumption of negotiations not set in stone

Transnistrian representatives said yesterday that Chisinau's announcement that official negotiations surrounding the resolution of the conflict in the region could resume by the end of the year is not set in stone.

In a press statement released by the Transnistrian Foreign Affairs Department, separatist officials said that the Vienna meeting at the beginning of March „only included creating conditions [Imedia: for the resumption of negotiations], not establishing terms within which official meetings could be resumed.”

Jewish communities in Russia: Moldova and Latvia trying to "rehabilitate" Nazism

Jewish communities in Russia said in a press statement today that they are concerned with countries like Moldova and Latvia attempting to "rehabilitate" Nazism.

Specifically, the communities objected to Chisinau giving equal benefits to Moldovan nationals who fought on both the Soviet and the Romanian side (when Romania was allied with the Nazis) during World War II.

In Latvia's case, the organizations asked that marches of Waffen-SS veterans be banned.

Chisinau has not yet commented on these accusations.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Romania appoints Ambassador to Chisinau after nearly a year without an embassy chief

Romanian President Traian Basescu signed a decree this weekend appointing Marius Lazurca as Bucharest's Ambassador to Chisinau. Mr. Lazurca went through legislative hearings early in February. He used to be Romania's chief of embassy at the Vatican.

After the anti-Communist protests in Chisinau in April, Communist authorities accused Bucharest of a coup and declared then-Romanian Ambassador Filip Teodorescu persona non grata in the country. Later, Chisinau refused to accept a proposal for an ambassador from Bucharest.

After the new ruling Alliance for European Integration came to power, ties between Chisinau and Bucharest improved visibly.

Former President angers Roma community with "unforgivable" comment

Niculai Radita, one of the leaders of the Roma community in Moldova and head of the National Roma Center, told Stirea Zilei that former President (2001-2009) and current Party of Communists (PC) head Vladimir Voronin cannot be forgiven for his comments about the Roma even if Mr. Voronin said that he only uttered a proverb. „This is no proverb – it's about Vladimir Voronin's attitude toward the Roma ethnicity. In normal countries, documents don't get proverbs written on them. This is mockery,” Mr. Radita added.

Mr. Voronin wrote on a document about fees for artists who played for the Party of Communists during the electoral campaign that „with money, even gypsies sing and dance!” The document was desecretized by the current Government, and Mr. Voronin said he was only using a proverb and that he is a friend of the Roma. Leaders of the Roma community have said, however, that Mr. Voronin has never answered to appeals for support.

According to the 2004 census, about 12,000 Roma live in Moldova.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Communist head: Interim President is sick in the head; Interim President: Communist leader is schizophrenic

Former President (2001-2009) and Communist head Vladimir Voronin told the press today that he believes every state official's sanity should be verified by medical authorities. He then proceeded to say that interim President and Speaker Mihai Ghimpu is "sick in the head."

Mr. Ghimpu replied with his own diagnosis of Mr. Voronin's health problems: "He's the one who's sick. He's a schizophrenic and he needs to go to the doctor."

Mr. Voronin has become rather notorious for his public discourse. He recently said a journalist looked "fine in her spring dress," said he would like to stick a rat down Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoaca's pants, and said he picked a "handsome man" as his successor in the Party of Communists.

Parliament dismisses Supreme Court of Justice head after he calls journalists "rabid dogs"

Parliament dismissed Ion Muruianu as head of the Supreme Court of Justice today.

The ruling Alliance for European Integration voted in favor of the decision. The Party of Communists walked out, accusing Speaker Mihai Ghimpu of not allowing them to speak.

Mr. Muruianu called journalists "rabid dogs" during a yearly meeting with legal representatives in the middle of February. As a result, a number of well-known media personalities in the country asked for his resignation.

Moldova has lost numerous cases at the European Court for Human Rights, and media outlets in the country have blamed Moldovan judges, including Mr. Muruianu, for causing these lossee, some of which reach millions of Euros.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Communist-appointed Interior Minister banned from leaving country, investigated for workplace negligence during April events

Communist-appointed Interior Minister Gheorghe Papuc, as well as former Chisinau police chief Vladimir Botnari, are now being officially investigated for workplace negligence by the General Prosecutor's (GP) office.

The GP has banned the two former officials from leaving the country.

Mr. Papuc and Mr. Botnari held their posts during the April events in Chisinau. After a group of protesters vandalized the Presidential and Parliamentary buildings in downtown Chisinau, a mass repression campaign was initiated that ended with the detention of over 700 people and the torture of more than 300. A number of deaths were also tied to the repression, especially on the night of April 7-8.

Former Interior Minister Papuc has said that he simply followed orders from Communist authorities. Former President (2001-2009) and current Party of Communists head Vladimir Voronin has confirmed Mr. Papuc's statements.

h/t www.unimedia.md

Commission to Study Communism: Soviet occupation in Moldova resulted in 300,000 deaths and deportations

Veaceslav Stavila, a member of the Commission to Study and Assess the Totalitarian Communist Regime in Moldova (CSATCRM), presented new data today about the impact of the Soviet occupation of Moldova.

Mr. Stavila noted that over 300,000 people were killed or deported after Moldova became part of the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. Close to 200,000 Moldovans died during the organized famine of 1946-1947. About 70,000 Moldovans were deported to Stalinist work camps. Moreover, more than 50,000 Moldovan men were illegally mobilized by the Soviet Army in 1944 - 32 percent of them were never heard from again.

The Commission was founded by the ruling Alliance for European Integration to investigate the effect of the Communist regime in post-World War II Moldova. It includes leading Moldovan historians and intellectuals. The Commission will have access to a lot of archival material about Moldova's history that was previously unavailable to the public. The new data probably comes from this new access.

h/t www.stireazilei.md

New York Times: Black Sea is Europe's New Flashpoint

The New York Times recently published a feature on the Black Sea, which is called "Europe's New Flashpoint."

The entire article, including links to a number of other readings on the Black Sea, is available here.

Croatia temporarily lifts visas for Russians

Croatia announced that it would lift its visa regime with Russia for May-November 2011. The move is an attempt to boost tourism and cultural ties.

Moldovan citizens still need a visa for Croatia, although they can receive one for free.

There seems to be a competition between Russia and countries from the Eastern Partnership in terms of getting rid of visa regimes for European countries.

Previously, Estonian officials said that announcements by Italian politicians about attempts to scrap the visa regime with Russia would be unreasonable before granting visa-free travel to Eastern Partnership countries.

Chisinau commemorates 1992 civil war

On March 2, 1992, Chisinau and the separatist region of Transnistria began a short, but bloody, civil war that ended in hundreds of deaths and injuries.

The war ended on July 21, 1992, when then-President Mircea Snegur signed a ceasefire agreement with Russian President Boris Yeltsyn. Russian troops had participated in the war on the Transnistrian side.

Authorities in Moldova turned this date into a state holiday this year.

Chisinau hosted a number of commemorative activities today, which were attended by war veterans, widows, and regular citizens.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Spectator: Let us help plucky Moldova

The Spectator, a well-known British weekly, published an editorial about Moldova in its Saturday issue.

The article is called "Let us help plucky Moldova" and urges the European Union to take a more pro-active approach in helping the country develop closer ties to the West.

An excerpt:
"Now that the post-Cold War era has ended it is hard to find small, inspirational states who seek to cement a new-found independence and yearn for what the West has to offer. Georgia looked like such a state until Russian aggression and Tblisi's behaviour put an end to the country's westward journey. Ukraine is too big, and too bolshy to count. Belarus is happy in Moscow's embrace.

But one country still fits the bill - Moldova."

The whole article can be read here.

The Economist: Europe's bear problem: The trouble with the European Union’s attempts to woo Russia

The Economist recently published an article on the European Union and Russia. The article can be read here.

25 percent of Ukrainian vineyards freeze, authorities predict pressure from importers of Moldovan wines

According to UkrInform, about 25 percent of Ukrainian vineyards have been affected by frost this season.

The regions that were most affected included Odessa, Kherson, and Zakarpatia.

Serhyi Petrenko, head of the Association of Winegrowers and Winemakers of Ukraine (AWWU), said that, given the circumstances, Kyiv might witness pressure from importers of Moldovan wines. Moldova was not very affected by frost this season.

Russian paper: "Transnistria has enough weaponry to destroy every Moldovan and Romanian soldier"

Argumenti Nedeli, a sister publication to Argumenti i Facti, one of the most circulated papers in Russia, recently published an article about the Russian weaponry stores in Transnistria and the missile controversy.

The paper describes Tiraspol's recent announcement that it would be willing to host Russian Iskander missiles on its territory as a response to Romania accepting to host elements of the American missile system on its territory. It notes that if Moscow accepts this offer, Romania would be covered entirely by the Iskander.

Argumenti Nedeli goes on to say that the Transnistrian army is much stronger than the Moldovan army, and that it has enough weaponry and equipment to destoy all Moldovan and Romanian soldiers should a conflict emerge in the region.

Yaroslav Vyatkin, the article's author, notes that due to the fact that "almost everyone [in Transnistria] has Russian passports, we will have to defend our citizens if something happens."

Mr. Vyatkin says that this is one of the reasons why Russia has not yet withdrawn its soldiers from the separatist republic.

Chisinau has repeatedly asked Russia to withdraw. The Moldovan Constitution says that the country is neutral and does not allow the presence of foreign troops on its territory.

The article, in the original Russian, is available here.

[The report translated some of the paper directly from Russian]

Gagauz head meets Northern Cyprus Prime Minister

This weekend, Gagauz Baskan (Governor) Mihail Formuzal met with Dervis Eroglu, the Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

The two officials spoke about possibilities of improving economic ties. Mr. Formuzal noted that students in the Gagauz region in Moldova are interested in attending universities in Northern Cyprus.

The Gagauz region in Moldova covers a portion of land in the South. It is inhabited mostly by a Christianized Turkic population. Most people there speak Russian, however.

The region has often had tense ties with Chisinau and has engaged in some foreign policy activities separately from the central Government, especially with Russia, Belarus, and Turkey. Leaders in the Gagauz region have also been pro-active in establishing cultural ties with Turkic countries.

The TRNC proclaimed independence in 1983 and is only recognized as a sovereign state by Turkey.

Parliament fails to dismiss Supreme Court of Justice head after Communists walk out in protest

Ion Muruianu, the head of the Supreme Court of Justice, will keep his job for at least a few more days after Parliament failed to dismiss him this weekend.

Mr. Muruanu said a couple of weeks ago that journalists in Moldova were "rabid dogs" because they criticized legal authorities in the country. Moldova has lost numerous cases at the European Court for Human Rights because judges inside the country ruled incorrectly.

During the legislative session, which lasted until about 9 p.m., the ruling Alliance for European Integration asked for Mr. Muruianu's dismissal. The Communists objected and walked out, causing the meeting to be closed because quorum could not be achieved.

The issue was therefore delayed until next week.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Feature on Moldovan who became an American soldier

Medill Reports Chicago recently posted a news story on a Moldovan citizen who became sped up the process to receive an American citizenship by becoming a member of the U.S. military.

The full article can be read here.

State-owned news agencies in Moldova and Romania resume ties

State-owned Moldovan news agency Moldpres and Romanian state-run Agerpress announced today that they are resuming cooperation ties.

The two agencies had cut ties while the Communists were in power, when Moldpres was accused by independent media reports of being pro-Communist.

The heads of the two agencies agreed to exchange information and organize news projects of interest in both Moldova and Romania.

This seems to be yet another step in the resumption of contacts between Chisinau and Bucharest after the two countries had a rocky relationship while the Party of Communists governed Moldova.

Desecretized document shows Communist President mocking gypsies, Roma community unhappy

The Government has continued to release formerly secret documents put together by the Communist Government (2001-2009).

One of the more recent ones reveals deputy Prime Minister Victor Stepaniuc asking then-President and current Party of Communists (PC) head Vladimir Voronin for nearly two million lei (200,000 U.S. dollars) to pay artists to sing during the PC's electoral campaign prior to the April 5, 2009 elections.

The letter shows a handwritten note by Mr. Voronin that says "with money, even gypsies sing and dance!?"

This note has displeased the Roma community in Moldova, whose representatives said will report it to authorities.

The Communists registered a very high score in the North of Moldova, where a considerable Roma population lives. It is unclear whether this statement will cause the Communists to lose some popularity among this ethnic group.

According to the most recent national census (2004), about 12,000 Roma live in Moldova.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Desecretized document reveals former Communist Government's plans to "fight against Romanianism" in Moldova

The current Government has initiated a campaign to publish secret policy documents released by the former Communist Government (2001-2009). In the process, media outlets have published documents that indicated, for example, that the Communists had expelled students and dismissed college faculty for participating in the anti-Communist April 2009 protests.

Tomorrow's Timpul publishes another document that shows deputy Prime Minister Victor Stepaniuc's frustrations about the fact that a large number of high school teachers refused to teach Government-mandated textbooks that challenged the idea that Moldova is inhabited by Romanians. The deputy premier also complains that about 70 percent of college faculty in Moldova is pro-Romanian.

Mr. Stepaniuc mentions at the end of the document that the Government needs to call a forum of historians and experts with whom to discuss ways of "fighting Romanianism in Moldovan society." By "Romanianism," Mr. Stepaniuc is referring to anything suggesting a commonality between Romania and Moldova - ethnically, linguistically, or historically.

Victor Stepaniuc is a leading proponent of a school of thought called "Moldovenism," which argues that the Republic of Moldova's statehood is 650 years old, that Moldova should have close historical, political, and cultural ties with Russia, and that the ethnicity of the majority population in Moldova is "Moldovan" instead of Romanian. Critics of this school of thought say that Mr. Stepaniuc supports Stalinist notions of ethnicity and a Soviet interpretation of history that praises Russia and criticizes Romania and the West in general.

The Party of Communists (PC) fostered very close ties with the Moldovenists during their rule (2001-2009), although there seems to have been a recent falling out. Mr. Stepaniuc recently left the PC to join the Moldova Unita [United Moldova] Party, a pro-Russian left-wing group that proposes to challenge the PC's supremacy on the left.

Another Moldovenist historian - Sergiu Nazaria - has been a quite vocal critic of the Communists after initially being their ally.

World Politics Review: Moscow Goes Ballistic Again over U.S. Missile Defense

World Politics Review, a respected news and commentary portal, recently posted an editorial about the recent spat over the installation of elements of the U.S. missile defense shield in Romania.

An excerpt:
"Russian officials have let it be known that they are considering all sorts of response options, from resurrecting an earlier threat to deploy Iskander missiles in Russia's Kaliningrad region to deploying defensive or offensive missile systems in Transdnestr, a separatist region in Moldova. Although the latter measure would not present any military problems for NATO, it would help solidify Moscow's influence in yet another breakaway republic in a potential conflict zone. Russian troops have been stationed in Transdnestr since it separated from Moldova in 1992."

The full article can be read here.

Interim President Mihai Ghimpu congratulates Yanukovich on victory

Interim President and Speaker Mihai Ghimpu has congratulated Viktor Yanikovich on winning the Ukrainian presidency. Mr. Ghimpu has expressed his hope that Chisinau and Kyiv will continue to cooperate.

It is still unclear what impact Mr. Yanukovich's victory will have on ties with Chisinau. The victor is perceived by many analysts in Moldova as being more pro-Russian than his predecessor, whereas Chisinau has turned more toward the West since the new Alliance for European Integration came to power.

Moldova signs Copenhagen Accord, pledges to cut emissions by no less than 25 percent from 1990 levels

The Copenhagen Accord to reduce climate change has thus far gotten the support of about 100 signatory countries.

Moldova is one of them. It pledges to cut emissions by no less than 25 percent from levels registered in 1990.

Chisinau is considered to be a small emitter. Russia, India, China, and the United States are among the biggest greenhouse emitters globally.

Interior Minister takes police officers to theater play, says "we're in deep crap"

Interior Minister Victor Catan took police officers to a theater play today. The performance, called Made in Moldova, was written by famous editorialist and screenwriter Constantin Cheianu and directed by Sandu Grecu. It covers issues like corruption and institutional indifference in the country.

Mr. Catan expressed his hope that the play would be a good lesson to police forces in Moldova, who have often been accused of corruption and incompetence, and who have very low positive polling numbers. The Minister quoted a line in the play at one point, saying that "we're in deep crap."

A lot of Moldovans were also shocked by the alleged police abuse and torture of anti-Communist protesters in April.

A Stirea Zilei reporter who was at the play said that few police officers attending found the performance amusing despite the presence of a number of comedic elements in it.

EU temporarily suspends travel ban on Transnistrian leaders in attempt to improve negotiations

The European Union Council of Foreign Ministers decided to temporarily suspend a travel ban on Transnistrian leaders for six months.

The ban has, however, been extended until the end of February 2011.

As a result, separatist leaders can travel to the European Union until September 2010.

The EU made this move to motivate Chisinau and Tiraspol to improve their negotiations for the resolution of the Transnistrian conflict.

The new ruling Alliance for European Integration has also asked the EU to temporarily suspend the travel ban in an attempt to extend an olive branch to the Transnistrians.

Ever since 2003, when the ban was initiated, nearly 20 Transnistrian leaders have been unable to travel to the European Union.

The separatists have complained about these measures as being unfair.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Interim President: Russian newspaper interpreted statement about unification incorrectly

Interim President Mihai Ghimpu released a statement today, in which he tried to clarify statements recently made to Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, which quoted him as saying that Moldova will "never" unify with Romania.

Mr. Ghimpu notes that he told the paper that it is the ruling Alliance for European Integration that will not pursue unification. The Alliance is made up of five parties: the Liberal Democrats, the Liberals, the Democrats, the Moldova Noastra [Our Moldova] Alliance, and the Actiunea Europeana [European Action] Movement.

The Democrats are headed by Communist defector Marian Lupu and are the most centrist member of the coalition. Mr. Ghimpu was probably referring to the fact that the entire Alliance would not be able to agree on unification, especially while the Democrats are in it.

The interim President is most likely trying to do some damage control after his being quoted as saying that Moldova will "never" unify with Romania might have displeased the Liberal electorate (Mr. Ghimpu heads this party), which tends to be adamantly pro-Romanian. Since the Liberals have a few rivals on this part of the political spectrum - most notably Actiunea Europeana and the National Liberal Party - such statements are risky, especially close to early legislative elections.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Former President's son suspected of money laundering, tax evasion

Businessman Oleg Voronin, the son of former President (2001-2009) and current Party of Communists (PC) head Vladimir Voronin, testified today at the Center to Fight Economic Crime and Corruption.

Mr. Voronin was there to explain why he had spent 67 million lei (about six million U.S. dollars) in his personal bank account in 2008-2009 despite the fact that his reported personal income was much lower.

Authorities say that the former President's son is being investigated for money laundering and tax evasion.

Oleg Voronin told the press that the new Government should learn from his father, whom he called a "grand President," instead of interviewing him.

Mr. Voronin became notorious during Communist rule (2001-2009) as a very wealthy businessman. Opposition parties at the time accused the Government of helping Oleg Voronin grow wealthy by pressuring other businesses.

Vladimir Voronin said recently that the investigation of his son's financial dealings is organized by the ruling Alliance for European Integration to incur revenge on him.

The Center to Fight Economic Crime and Corruption, which is investigating Mr. Voronin's case, has denied all accusations.

American ice dancing couple use Moldovan folk for routine

American ice dancing couple Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, who have won the American championship five times, used a Moldovan folk routine to perform during the 2010 Winter Olympics tonight. They took fourth after judges' scores came in.

The material seems to be a combination of a number of folk songs, including a Moldovan Dance performed during the Soviet Union by the Moiseyev Dance Ensemble, and Ciocirlia (The Lark), a famous Romanian folk dance commonly used to show skill at playing an instrument because of its complicated structure.

The couple is trained by Russian Olympic ice dancing champions Natalia Linichuk and Ghennadi Karponosov, which could be why it might have picked a Moldovan dance. Folk dancing from Moldova was rather popular in the Soviet Union.

The couple also wore garb resembling the Moldovan national costume.

A version of the dance can be seen here.

Former President and Communist leader tells reporter she looks "fine" in her spring dress despite her TV station spreading "lies"

Former President (2001-2009) and current Party of Communists (PC) head Vladimir Voronin held a short meeting with reporters on Saturday. Upon being asked by ProTV reporter Angela Gonta about his son Oleg allegedly making huge money transactions on his personal bank account, Mr. Voronin chose instead to accuse ProTV of spreading "lies."

The former President then went on to say that "you looked fine yesterday during the news, when you wore a spring dress."

Mr. Voronin has been known to make colorful statements in the past. At one point, he expressed the desire to stick a rat down Chisinay mayor Dorin Chirtoaca's pants, and has insulted Communist defectors like Marian Lupu by saying that his height might have prevented his development as a person. He also recently said that he picked a "very handsome man" as his successor to head the PC.

(VIDEO) Council of Foreign Relation hosts meeting on Russia and its neighbors, Moldova mentioned

The Council of Foreign Relations, a famous American foreign policy think tank, recently hosted a meeting entitled 'Russia, Its Neighbors, and the Future of Post-Cold War Europe.'

Moldova is brought up in some of the discussions.

The Council offers a full video report on its website.

The Economist: America’s reconfigured anti-missile shield still irks Russia

The Economist recently posted a news story about elements of the new American missile shield being hosted in Romania. Moldova is mentioned in the article, as well. It can be read here.

President: Moldova will "never" unite with Romania

Moldovan interim President and Speaker Mihai Ghimpu told reporters last week that the country will never unite with Moldova.

"The fact that we speak Romanian does not mean that Moldova has to unify with Romania. That's a bluff. There will never be unification with Romania," Mr. Ghimpu added.

He explained that, especially after Romanian President Traian Basescu's visit, "it became clear that no unification is possible with Romania. Moldova is a sovereign state."

Mr. Ghimpu heads the Liberal Party, which is one of the more openly pro-Romanian groups in the Alliance for European Integration. As a result, the interim President and other Liberal officials have been accused by the Communist opposition of wanting unification with Romania.

Moldova 30th country to ratify cluster-mine ban, makes ban binding international law

Moldova ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions last week, bringing the number of countries that have done so to the necessary 30 to make it binding on August 1, 2010. About 104 countries have signed the Convention thus far since it was adopted in May 2008. The ratifying countries will meet in Laos in 2010.

The Convention - also known as the Oslo Agreement - bans the use, production, storage, or sale of such mines. The law also requires assistance for victims of cluster bombs, which blow up before hitting ground and release tens of smaller bombs across a large swath of territory. As a result, the exact location of these bombs hitting the ground is often random. Some of them do not explode right away and become dormant explosives.

The U.S., Israel, Russia, and China have refused to ratify the treaty.

According to the United Nations, an overwhelming number of cluster bomb victims - 98 percent - are civilians. About 40 percent of those are children.

The weapons were first used by the Soviet Union in 1943. They have most recently been used during the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 and the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006.

Moldova still has stockpiles of cluster bombs. The convention requires that it destroy these munitions within eight years.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Secret documents reveal Communist persecution of April protesters: teachers and student were expelled and warned

The Filat cabinet has decided to release a number of secret documents put together by the Communists when they were in power.

A set of these indicate that the former ruling party initiated a series of persecutions of teachers, professors, and students after the April events in 2009. Many students participated in anti-Communist demonstrations at the time, and the Communists have always accused both teachers and students of being too critical of the Government.

According to a document, two students at the Academy of Economic Studies in Chisinau were expelled, as was the head of a college in the capital. Numerous others were warned and sactioned.

Another document reveals attempts by the Communists to find a way to force the protesters or their parents to pay for the damage caused by vandalism on April 7.

A third one shows a message from the Interior Ministry to then-deputy Prime Minister Victor Stepaniuc. Mr. Stepaniuc apparently gave a list of students to the Ministry and asked them to investigate whether the students were involved in the protests. The reply says that "the Ministry has no information about the involvement" of the students.

h/t www.stireazilei.md

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Transnistrian leader: We are willing to host Russian missiles on our territory

Transnistrian leader Igor Smirnov said earlier this week that the separatist region would be willing to host Russian missiles on its territory.

The move is most likely a response to Romania accepting to host parts of the American missile shield system directed to protect against threats from the Middle East.

Transnistria still hosts over 1,000 Russian troops on its territory, as well as a large array of Soviet-era arsenals. Chisinau does not control this piece of land.

The separatists get political and economic support from the Kremlin, and there are most likely over 100,000 residents in the region that hold Russian passports.

Russian officials have not yet commented on this offer. Deputy Prime Minister Victor Osipov, who is responsible for the resolution of the Transnistrian conflict, said that since Moldova is a neutral country, foreign military presence on Moldovan soil is unacceptable.

Chisinau mayor gets letter from Brigitte Bardot asking him to stop "bloody and revolting" euthanasia of stray dogs

Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoaca has been trying to find a solution to the capital's stray dog problem ever since he took office in 2007. Chisinau has a huge problem in this regard; packs of stray dogs, many of them rabid, roam the streets in the city. Some have bitten adults and children, and a few people have died from complications as a result of these bites.

According to a recent decision by the Chisinau city council, stray dogs that are caught and are not claimed by anyone within ten days will be put down.

This decision has led to a reaction from famous French actress Brigitte Bardot, who is a well-known animal rights activist. Ms. Bardot sent a letter to Mr. Chirtoaca, asking him to "disavow, as quickly as possible, this horrible news, that will unite your name forever with this bloody and revolting act that is completely against your position, which gives you an obligation to protect and to find human solutions for every problem that appears in the city."

Mr. Chirtoaca has replied that city hall will develop an answer to Ms. Bardot which will include a death certificate of a city hall official that died because of complications from a stray dog bite, as well pictures of a child who was attacked by stray dogs.

This issue seems to have divided people in Chisinau. On the one hand, many believe the problem needs to be resolved. On the other hand, some say the solution is inhumane.

Justice Minister: A young woman was "beaten to a pulp" by police in April for refusing to take her clothes off in front of them

Justice Minister Alexandru Tanase said during a meeting with Moldovan judges that the legal system in Moldova suffers from "moral crisis" and from corruption, especially after the April 2009 events.

Numerous judges allegedly conducted illegal trials of young people in police stations during the repression campaign initiated right after the vandalization of the Parliamentary and Presidential buildings on April 7.

Mr. Tanase also made a disturbing revelation about one particular case in April.

„I spoke with the father of a woman who told me that she was beaten to a pulp for refusing to take her clothes off in front of police officers. So what did the judge do? Instead of telling the prosecutors about this case, he arrested her for five days and sent her to Drochia [Imedia: a town in the North] so that her bruises could heal,” Mr. Tanase noted.

In April, media outlets in Moldova posted a number of testimonies from young people who were beaten severely in police stations. Most of them were young men and women. No police officers have been punished for abuse thus far.

The extent of the abuse remains unclear, however, since many young people are afraid to come out and share their experiences because they fear for their safety.

Supreme Court of Justice head calls journalists "rabid dogs," media personalities ask for his resignation

Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) president Ion Muruianu sparked considerable controversy this weekend, when he called journalists "rabid dogs" and accused them of trying to compromise judges by writing critically about Moldova's losses at the European Court of Human Rights.

Chisinau has lost more than 150 cases at the ECHR after judges in the country made improper decisions. Moldova gets penalized for these mistakes, sometimes with millions of dollars.

Mr. Muruianu's statement sparked considerable outrage in the media community in the country. Media personalities have asked for his resignation, and the SCJ head had to release a press statement on Monday saying that he did not intend to insult the profession.

The new Alliance for European Integration has pledged to reform the justice system in the country.

Monday, February 15, 2010

General Prosecutor: Police shot real bullets on April 7

General Prosecutor Valeriu Zubco said this weekend that security forces used real bullets during the repression campaign on April 7, right after protesters vandalized the Parliament and Presidential buildings.

An employee of the Moldovan secret service used real bullets to shoot at a car stationed in front of the secret service headquarters.

Mr. Zubco said that this proves that security forces used real bullets during the April events, and said that his office has started a criminal investigation of this case.

The General Prosecutor also noted that Communist-appointed authorities knew about this case in April, but tried to sweet it under the rug.

On the night of April 7 and a few days after, security forces detained over 700 people and tortured 300 of them, according to a recent Soros Foundation report.

According to eye-witnesses shots were heard all night from April 7 to April 8, and it has now become apparent that at least in one case the shots were with real bullets.

Estonia to open Eastern Partnership training center

Estonian Foreign Affairs Minister Urmas Paet said during a meeting in Parliament this weekend that his country intends to establish a training center for the Eastern Partnership (EP) countries.

EP was started by the European Union to develop closer ties with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

Mr. Paet noted that the center would be similar to the Mediterranean center on Malta and provide practical support for the good implementation of the Eastern Partnership.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Separatists release four Moldovans, detain other three

Four young men from the village of Oxentea (Dubasari), who were detained a couple of weeks ago by Transnistrian border guards for allegedly crossing into the breakaway republic, have been released. The separatists have also accused the men of illegally cutting down trees.

On the other hand, three villagers from Rascaieti (Stefan Voda) were detained by Transnistrian forces on Tuesday night for the same alleged crimes, says the official Transnistrian news agency Olvia-press.

U.S. Ambassador not allowed into separatist republic

U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Asif J. Chaudhry was not allowed to enter the breakaway republic of Transnistria yesterday.

He took the trip to attend a meeting that relaunched Moldovan-Transnistrian working groups meant to consolidate trust between the two parties.

Mr. Chaudhry had apparently received an official invitation from the separatist leaders, but could not enter the territory.

Moldovan Communist leader to step down, says he has already picked a "very handsome man" as successor

Moldovan Party of Communists (PC) head and former President (2001-2009) Vladimir Voronin told the press today that he will step down as PC head.

Mr. Voronin explained that he has already chosen a successor who is "very energetic, very handsome, very young, and very tall. Well, not that tall, because those have problems with development and don't ripen in time."

Mr. Voronin's joke about height refers to Communist defector Marian Lupu, who is very tall.

It is unclear when exactly the PC head will step down. Mr. Voronin has been heading the party for 15 years. During his rule, he managed to win two legislative elections and become President twice (Parliament picks the head of state in Moldova).

Romanian Euro M.P. appointed as Socialist group's Moldova rapporteur

Romanian European Member of Parliament Ioan Mircea Pascu was appointed by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament as a rapporteur for Moldova.

Mr. Pascu has been assigned to expressing his group's position toward the E.P.'s stand on the association agreement between the European Union and Chisinau.

In the last couple of years, Romanian M.P.s in the European Parliament have been very visible advocates of Chisinau's membership in the E.U. and are usually the ones representing the E.P. in establishing ties with Chisinau. For example, Romanian Democratic Liberal M.P. Monica Macovei is head of the European Parliament delegation for ties with Moldova.

Romanian Government approves non-refundable 100-million-euro grant for Chisinau

The Romanian Government approved a non-refundable 100-million-Euro grant for Moldova today.

The money will be distributed in four 25-million-Euro installments until 2013.

The decision comes after a highly publicized visit by Romanian President Traian Basescu and numerous cabinet members to Chisinau a week ago.

Financial assistance has been forthcoming from the IMF (nearly 600 million dollars), the World Bank (100 million dollars), and a few other sources, which will help Moldova weather the financial crisis.

Foreign Minister: Moldova has no plans to join NATO

Foreign Affairs and European Integration Minister Iurie Leanca, who was in Brussels today to attend a NATO conference, told Russian news agency Itar Tass that Chisinau has no plans to join NATO.

Mr. Leanca stressed that Moldova is a neutral country, according to its constitution, and that Chisinau has ties with NATO based on an individual partnership plan.

The new ruling Alliance for European Integration is visibly more pro-Western than the former ruling Party of Communists (2001-2009), as a result of which some opposition members and media outlets have written about Chisinau's possible plans of joining NATO or at least developing closer ties with the organization.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Interim President: Voting age should be lowered to 16

Interim President and Speaker Mihai Ghimpu said yesterday that he would like for the Moldovan Constitution to include a provision that lowers the voting age to 16.

The new authorities have formed a commission to investigate the possibility for constitutional change in Moldova. Several Venice Commission experts will arrive in Chisinau this week to assist in the process.

Lowering the voting age was one of the proposals voiced by the commission. Other proposals are changing the language name from "Romanian" to "Moldovan" and replacing the name of "village" with "commune."

h/t www.unimedia.md

Four young Moldovan men detained by Transnistria still being held

Four young Moldovan men who were detained by Transnistrian forces at the end of January are still being held by the separatists. Their parents have complained that security forces in the breakaway region are asking for huge sums of money to release the young men.

The four were apparently walking on the ice on the river Nistru when they were detained. The Nistru acts as a natural border between the territory controlled by Chisinau and Transnistria.

Deputy Prime Minister Victor Osipov, who is responsible for the resolution of the Transnistrian conflict, said yesterday that the detention was a provocation planned by the so-called Security Ministry in Transnistria, which is trying to hurt attempts to solve the conflict in the region.

h/t www.stireazilei.md

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Moldovan authorities begin releasing previously secret Soviet-era archival documents

The Government released over 1,500 archival files of the Communist Party (CP) of the Soviet Union, as well as logs from meetings of the CP's Central Committee. Information from 1974-1984 is now available.

Authorities plan to release every pre-1991 file that is available.

Many of these documents were previously in restricted-access locations, but are now being made available to a commission that is investigating the crimes of Communism in the country. This commission will eventually write a report that will most likely condemn communism in Moldova.

Aside from clarifying Moldova's Soviet past, this move by the new Government could also be a political blow to the current Party of Communists, which claims some legacy with the Soviet-era version but stresses it is a different political group.

h/t www.timpul.md

(Analysis) Will defections harm the Party of Communists?

This weekend, the fifth Party of Communists (PC) M.P. announced that she would be leaving the party and moving to the Moldova Unita [United Moldova] Party. Svetlana Rusu is thusly joining four other M.P.s who left last year because they were unhappy with the PC's decision to boycott the presidential elections and to push for an early legislative poll.

Will these defections affect the Party of Communists, however?

History shows that defections by leading Communist figures have produced a mixed record in the past. On the one hand, former Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev, who was cabinet head during most of the 2000s and, while in office, had high polling numbers, has been notoriously unable to have any success at the polls with any of the parties he either headed or joined after he had a falling out with the PC.

On the other hand, Marian Lupu seems to have boosted the Democratic Party's popularity after he defected from the Communists in April 2009. Many analysts now say that Mr. Lupu's party will gain even more seats during early legislative elections.

It is unclear how Vladimir Turcan, the leading and most well-known recent Communist defector, will do. He was recently elected as head of Moldova Unita and intends to make his new party a strong left-wing competitor, most of whose electorate will have to come from the Communists and the Democrats. But Mr. Turcan has never stood out as an impressive politician and has always lived in the shadow of PC head and former President Vladimir Voronin. Whether he managed to develop his own political identity remains to be seen.

Some analysts have said that anything that fragments the former ruling party is good for democracy since it weakens what had essentially become an authoritarian monolith headed by former President Vladimir Voronin. But Moldova Noastra is not visibly different in terms of its policy preferences from the PC: both parties are pro-Russian, skeptical of ties with the West, and reject any references to Romanian being Moldova's state language and the main ethnicity in the country (they say this ethnicity and language are Moldovan). Both stress Moldova's statehood and are adamantly against NATO integration.

As a result, we may be witnessing the decentralization of the PC's message instead of its disintegration. The two processes are completely different. The former would suggest that the PC has formed a number of politicians that continue to basically push the party's message, with some tweaks here and there, separately from the party. The latter would indicate the weakening of the Communists.

Moreover, a PC with 43 seats is still a strong party. For a political group shaken by accusations of staging the April mass unrest, of at least being aware of the police forces torturing hundreds of young people after April 7, by the loss of Marian Lupu (one of the most popular politicians in the country, especially with centrist voters), and by Vladimir Turcan's departure, the party's resilience has been impressive thus far. Polls show that the PC continues to remain popular with many Moldovans and that it will be a strong competitor during the early legislative elections. The Communists also seem to have consolidated their popularity among the Russian-speaking minority in Moldova. It is unclear if the Democrats and Moldova Unita will manage to make in-roads into this portion of the electorate.

In short, the PC's seeming fragmentation is much more of a trickle than a deluge, at least so far. And trickles are much easier to stop. The Communists could very well pull that off.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Gagauz leader: Make Russian official language; federalize Moldova

Mihail Formuzal, the Gagauz Baskan (governor), made a series of proposals for constitutional change in Moldova this weekend.

The Gagauz autonomous region is located in Southern Moldova and is made up mostly of a Christianized Turkic people. Most of the population there speaks Russian, however.

The ruling Alliance for European Integration has expressed an interest in changing the Constitution and has founded a commission to investigate possibilities in this regard.

Mr. Formuzal said that he would like for Moldova to become a three-subject federation - Gagauz Yeri, Transnistria, and the rest of Moldova. He also asked that Russian be made the country's official language.

The Gagauz leader sent his proposals to interim President and Speaker Mihai Ghimpu, who rejected his proposals from the outset.

"Moldova never was, is not, nor will it ever be a federal republic," Mr. Ghimpu stressed.

The subject of federalization is very sensitive in Chisinau, where it provokes fears that it would be a first step toward Gagauz secession and that it would consolidate Transnistria's de facto independence and give it veto power over Moldova's pro-Western policies.

h/t www.protv.md

Fifth Communist M.P. defects, leaving party with 43 seats; Communist M.P. calls defectors "rats"

Svetlana Rusu, who was initially elected on the Party of Communists (PC) electoral list in 2009, announced this weekend that she is leaving the party.

Ms. Rusu announced that she will be joining the four other Communist defectors who became members of the Moldova Unita [United Moldova] Party (MUP).

Communist M.P. Grigore Petrenco called the defectors "rats."

During its recent congress, MUP elected former Communist M.P. Vladimir Turcan as its head.

At this point, the PC, which came in with 48 seats out of 101 in the legislature, now has 43 seats. The Liberal Democrats follow with 18, the Liberals with 15, the Democrats with 13, Moldova Noastra with 5, MUP with 5, and Actiunea Europeana with 2.

Although these shifts weaken the PC to some degree and make the Alliance's job easier, MUP is positioning itself as a left-wing opposition party. Its members seem to agree with the Communists on most issues (pro-Russian, anti-NATO, against the notion of Moldova being made up by a Romanian majority), and analysts have said they left because of personal disagreements with PC head Vladimir Voronin and conflict about the party's future.

So we are unlikely to witness any significant changes in the dynamics between the opposition and the ruling coalition, which continues to have a very flimsy majority.

Moreover, whereas right after elections the Moldovan Parliament had five parties represented, now there are seven. The ruling Alliance for European Integration, which was made up of four parties, is now a collective of five, after two M.P.s left Moldova Noastra to join Actiunea Europeana.

Romania to host American missiles, Communists blast decision

Romanian President Traian Basescu announced this weekend that his country plans to host interceptor missiles as part of an American missile shield designed to protest Europe against nuclear threats from Iran.

The statement has caused quite a stir in Moldova, where Transnistrian authorities expressed their concern with Romania's decision. More than 1,000 Russian troops are stationed in the separatist republic.

Party of Communists (PC) head and former President (2001-2009) Vladimir Voronin also criticized Bucharest's plan, arguing that Moldova could therefore become a "front-line." Mr. Voronin is referring to the fact that NATO and the European Union both stop at the Moldovan border.

The Communist leader also accused Romania of destabilizing the situation in the region.

The Moldovan Government has not yet released an official position on Romania's plans.

It is clear, however, that Transnistria could be the site of some sort of Russian response to Bucharest's recent decision.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Large portion of small left-wing party migrates to Democrats

A considerable number of members of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and local SDP organizations announced that they were leaving to join the Democratic Party.

The defectors announced that they represent about 11,000 members, which is about two-thirds of the total number of local organizations.

SDP is a small left-wing party led by former Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis. It did not gain any seats during the two legislative elections in 2009.

In the last few months, there have been some shifts on the left side of the political spectrum in the country. The Democratic Party, which is headed by Communist defector Marian Lupu, has announced that it seeks to consolidate the center-left in order to be able to compete with the Party of Communists.

Mr. Lupu is popular with a considerable number of Moldovans and is likely to win the presidential seat if direct elections are held. As a result, the Democrats are a rising force in Moldovan politics and have attracted more and more support and members of other parties. The SDP defectors seem to be part of this trend.

h/t www.stireazilei.md

Authorities ask Communists to return their illegally held diplomatic passports after leaving office

The Foreign Affairs and European Integration Minister Iurie Leanca held a press conference today, during which he provided a list of former Communist authorities who still hold diplomatic passports despite having left office.

Among these are former President Vladimir Voronin and his wife, former Foreign Affairs Minister Andrei Stratan, former General Prosecutor Valeriu Gurbulea, and many others.

Mr. Leanca noted that if the officials do not turn their passports in, they will be invalidated.

The Foreign MInister stressed that Mr. Voronin actually has about six or seven diplomatic passports that he can use to travel, and that his wife also has a couple.

h/t www.stireazilei.md

Russia seeks to liberalize immigration policy, move could attract more Moldovans to work there

Igor Shuvalov, Russia's first deputy Prime Minister, said during a press conference yesterday that his country would like to liberalize immigration policy in 2010.

Mr. Shuvalov said that Russia seeks to attract more people from Moldova, Ukraine, and Central Asia.

A considerable number of Moldovans work in Russia, usually in construction. It is easier for Moldovan citizens to go East, because they do not need a visa for Russia whereas they do for European Union countries.

Transnistria rejects higher status for EU and US during negotiations

Transnistrian Foreign Affairs Minister Vladimir Yastrebchak was quoted as saying by Olvia Press (the official news agency of the separatist republic) that he rejects changing the observer status of the United States and the European Union during the negotiations for the resolution of the Transnistrian conflict.

Mr. Yastrebchak noted that both Washington and Brussels are not even using the opportunities they have now to help solve the conflict. In addition, the separatist official argued that Romania should not be part of the negotiations because it would simply support Moldova against Transnistria.

Romania played a relatively active role during negotiations at the beginning of the 1990s.

Moldova fought a short, but bloody, civil war in 1992, after which Transnistria proclaimed itself an independent country. It is not recognized by any other country in the world, including Russia, which provides both political and financial support to the breakaway region.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Viktor Yanukovich: Importance of GUAM "has been lost in a sense"

Viktor Yanukovich, one of the two contenders to the presidential seat in Ukraine, told the press yesterday that GUAM, a regional organization made up of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova, "has lost its importance in a sense."

Mr. Yanukovich added that he believes GUAM is ineffective and that it has not engaged in any significant activities for five years.

GUAM is viewed by Russia as a rival organization to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Georgia and Ukraine have been, at times, vocal opponents of the Kremlin and have tried to turn the organization into a more active regional institution. When the Communists were in power, Chisinau was lukewarm toward GUAM.

Mr. Yanukovich is viewed by many analysts in Moldova as more pro-Russian than his rival Yulia Timoshenko. His victory could have an impact on Ukraine's foreign policy toward Chisinau. Moldova wants a reliable Kyiv to act as an occasional counter-weight to Russian influence, both in the negotiations for the settlement of the Transnistrian issue and generally. In addition, if Ukraine turns more toward Russia and away from the West, Moldova's will essentially become the farthest pro-Western Government in Eastern Europe.

Moldova fosters economic ties with Romania, Russia simultaneously

The Moldova-Russia intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation will meet on Thursday in Chisinau.

The commission has not met for a year, mostly because of the political situation in Moldova. Discussions today will focus on increasing cooperation in fields like agriculture, transportation, and tourism.

In a related news story, a number of businesspeople from Chisinau and Bucharest plan on opening a business and investment office in Chisinau to bolster ties. The office will seek to attract Romanian and European businesses to Moldova.

Although the ruling Alliance for European Integration is visibly more pro-Western than the former ruling Party of Communists (2001-2009), it seems open to cooperation with both Russia and Romania, both in terms of economic and political terms.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In humorous attempt to call them out for bias, former Communist M.P. gives TV station reporters a cooked duck

Former Communist M.P. Vladimir Turcan held a press conference today. Mr. Turcan, along with three other Communist M.P.s, left the Party of Communists in December 2009 because of displeasure with the party's decision not to vote for a president and thusly push for early legislative elections. The four have joined the Moldova Unita [United Moldova] Party.

At one point during the conference, Mr. Turcan gave reporters from the NIT television station a cooked duck. Analysts and independent media reports have established that NIT's coverage of the news tends to have a pro-Communist bias. In Russian a duck ("utka"), figuratively speaking, means a piece of false information. NIT has said, for example, that Moldova Unita is a project of Prime Minister Vlad Filat's, meant to compromise the Party of Communists.

The duck was tied with a red bow. Mr. Turcan emphasized that it is edible.

The NIT reporter who picked up the delicious fowl ended up leaving it in the press conference room. Unimedia has interesting footage from the ground.

Communist M.P.s arguing about party name change and symbols

Party of Communists (PC) M.P. Igor Dodon recently said during an offline meeting with Moldovan bloggers that he would join the party if members change the name and its symbols, like the hammer and the sickle.

Mr. Dodon is not officially a party member, although he ran on the PC list during legislative elections in 2009.

Communist M.P. Grigore Petrenco has replied, however, that the PC would not make any changes.

The Party of Communists has been discussing these issues for a couple of years, and the debate often reveals some rifts within the former ruling party. On the one hand, people like Mr. Dodon are considered to be more moderate and technocratic, although they have, throughout time, been very vocal critics of anti-Communist parties. On the other hand, M.P.s like Mr. Petrenco and Mark Tkaciuk are more adamant about keeping the Communist label and are considered to be more radical. Mr. Tkaciuk used to be former President Vladimir Voronin's advisor and continues to be a close ally of his. As a result, analysts assume Mr. Voronin is against changing the name and the symbols.

Mr. Dodon's statements could be interpreted as a warning to some PC members that he may be getting offers from other left or center-left parties. Four Communist M.P.s have already defected to Moldova Unita [United Moldova], and the Democratic Party may also be interested in Mr. Dodon.

Russian soldier from Transnistria part of spy ring busted by Ukraine; spies entered Ukraine via Transnistria

Ukrainian media outlets announced on Tuesday morning that authorities in Kyiv had arrested four Russians and detained one other under accusations of espionage in Odessa.

According to Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, the head of Kyiv's intelligence service, the Russians were trying to steal military secrets. Mr. Nalyvaychenko said the spies were caught red-handed.

One of the spies is a Russian soldier stationed in a peacekeeping mission in Transnistria. The others seem to be FSB (former KGB) officers. All of the spies entered Ukraine via the Transnistrian region. In Transnistria, the Russians apparently kidnapped a Ukrainian citizen and forced him to provide military secrets.

Among the items confiscated by Ukrainian authorities were flash card and a fountain pen video camera.

Russian secret service authorities have confirmed that at least one Russian "employee" was arrested in Ukraine.

h/t Xinhua, AFP

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Moldovan P.M. goes to Kyiv, meets Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Timoshenko

Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat was in Kyiv today, where he met with his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Timoshenko. The two officials spoke about the development of bilateral ties, and Ms. Timoshenko said that after the new ruling Alliance took power in Moldova, ties between the two countries considerably improved, indirectly criticizing the former ruling Party of Communists.

Mr. Filat and Ms. Timoshenko also spoke about the demarcation of the border between the two countries, as well as the cancellation of a Kyiv provision that Moldovans prove they have 1,000 Euros when crossing the border into Ukraine. Ms. Timoshenko promised to get rid of this requirement.

The Moldovan premier also met with Anatoli Kinah, the vice president of the Party of Regions, which is headed by Viktor Yanukovich, Ms. Timoshenko's rival presidential candidate during the second round of elections in the neighboring country.

Analysts say that Mr. Filat was thusly trying to avoid any accusations of favoring one particular presidential candidate. The P.M. even said that Moldova would have good ties and cooperate with whomever the Ukrainian people decide to elect.

Former Moldovan President and Communist head Voronin slams Romania, said it only joined the European Union because it allowed the U.S. to built bases

Former Moldovan President (2001-2009) and Party of Communists head Vladimir Voronin said during a televised interview with a private station that the only reason Romania joined the European Union was because it allowed the United States to build two military bases on its territory.

Mr. Voronin said that Bucharest was not ready to join the E.U. in 2007.

When the Communists were in power, ties with Romania were very tense and culminated in Mr. Voronin accusing Bucharest of a coup in April 2009. Recently, during Romanian President Traian Basescu's visit to Chisinau, Communist M.P. Mark Tkaciuk, who is a close ally of Mr. Voronin's, said Mr. Basescu "had returned to the scene of the crime."

h/t www.unimedia.md

U.K. Express paper: "New wave of immigration" possible after Romania announces easier citizenship granting policy for Moldovans

The Daily Express, a conservative British daily, recently posted an editorial about what it sees as "a new wave of immigration from eastern Europe," which "edged closer last night after Romania promised to fast-track a back-door route into Britain."

The article talks about Romanian President Traian Basescu's recent announcement that Moldovans will have an easier time receiving Romanian citizenship if they have lost it involuntarily. This refers to the fact that anyone who lived in Romania between the two world wars - when Moldova was part of Romania - and relatives up to the third generation can ask and get Romanian citizenship.

The full text can be read here.

Reuters: China's New Foreign Policy Takes Shape - in Moldova

Reuters recently posted a feature on Moldova and China's interest in increasing its influence there.

An excerpt:
"Yet China is taking a growing interest in Moldova, a former Soviet state that is poorer than many countries in Africa. Here, horse-drawn carts loaded with hay trundle on battered roads alongside top-end Mercedes and Lexus cars, and villagers get water from daily trips to wells."

The full article can be read here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Kyiv and Chisinau initiate demarcation of border, separatists in Transnistria promise not to interfere

Kyiv and Chisinau have initiated the demarcation of the border between the two countries by unveiling a border sign around the central section of the border.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Petro Poroshenko said that he hopes this process is over by 2012.

The two countries agreed on the demarcation in 2008.

Thus far, Transnistrian authorities have said that they will not impede the process as long as the demarcation is done outside Transnistrian territory. The separatist republic shares about 450 km of the 1,222-km border between the two countries.

P.M. Vlad Filat will be in Kyiv tomorrow, as well, to talk to P.M. Yulia Timoshenko about border and property issues.

Romania and Moldova to open new border checkpoint in the north

Local authorities from Romania announced that Bucharest and Chisinau would soon open up a new border checkpoint around the locations of Radauti Prut and Lipcani. Radauti Prut is very close to Northern Moldova, more than 300 km away from Chisinau.

The checkpoint is expected to open by February 12.

The European Union contributed three million Euros to building a bridge in the area to connect the two countries.

h/t www.Rompres.ro

U.S. State Sec Clinton: "Continuance of Russian troops on Moldovan territory" is "matter of concern"

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a January 29 interview with Voice of America that "we [the United States] want to assist Moldova in improving the lives of its people and hopefully over time the problems that it faces can be addressed."

Ms. Clinton added that "I discussed [territorial issues in Moldova] at length with the prime minister. Moldova is struggling to consolidate democracy to improve its economy, it is eligible for Millennium Challenge compact because it is still a poor country in need of a lot of help. Certainly the border disputes with Romania, the continuance of Russian troops on Moldovan territory are matters of concern."

A week ago, Prime Minister Vlad Filat and a number of other officials were on a visit to the United States, where they met with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Moldovan officials also received a 262-million-dollar grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

(ANALYSIS) In outpouring of Western funding, Moldova to get nearly one billion dollars in financial assistance

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund announced this weekend that it would provide nearly 600 million U.S. dollars to Moldova. The loan will be used to fill budget gaps and to help revive the ailing Moldovan economy, which has been heavily affected by the world economic crisis.

The announcement comes in the wake of Prime Minister Vlad Filat's recent visit to the United States, where he signed an agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, whereby Chisinau will get a 262-million-dollar grant it does not have to pay back. The money will be utilized to modernize agriculture and repair roads.

In addition, the World Bank has announced its willingness to provide Chisinau with about 80 million dollars in loans.

The volume of financial assistance Chisinau is going to be receiving, therefore, reaches a whopping one billion U.S. dollars, the largest sum of money the country has ever gotten from the outside since independence. Most of this money comes from the West, which carries an important political significance, especially compared to the situation in the country when the Communists were in power last year.

In 2009, Communist authorities announced that China had offered Chisinau the possibility of negotiating for a one-billion-dollar loan. Moscow was going to provide 500 million U.S. dollars, as well. Had these sums been obtained by Chisinau, the shape of the country's debt would have been considerably skewed in favor of non-Western countries.

Under the current circumstances, however, the pro-Western orientation of the ruling Alliance for European Integration is reflected in the sources of its funding. Moscow did say that it would still be interested in providing financial help to Chisinau, except that the 500 million dollars turned into 150 million after the ruling coalition came to power. Talks seem to be ongoing about this loan, although statements on the topic both in Chisinau and Moscow have been rather anemic.

Whatever the case may be, the IMF's decision, along with assistance from the MCC and the World Bank, is a much needed boost to the current Government, which has to struggle with a staggering budget deficit and rising prices that might anger part of the population.

The next couple of years will most likely be marred by political instability and conflict as Chisinau braces for another early legislative poll. That could prevent some of the money from coming into the country. But, at this point, the economic situation in Moldova does not look as dire.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Final international report: Young man beaten to death on April 7, most likely by police

Moldovan authorities received a final international report on the death of Valeriu Boboc, a young man who died on April 7, during the mass repression campaign initiated by authorities after the vandalization of the Parliamentary and Presidential buildings. According to a Soros Foundation report, 700 people were detained during the repression, and 300 were tortured in police stations and other unknown locations.

Valeriu Boboc's body was returned home after a few days, and authorities at the time said he had died because of an intoxication with an unknown gas substance.

The international expertise, conducted by a professional from the United Kingdom, establishes that Mr. Boboc, a husband and a father of a young child, was beaten to death, most likely by police officers. Many Moldovans are not surprised by the report, considering the fact that pictures taken of the young man during his funeral show him with a huge dent in his head, most likely caused by brutal beatings. These pictures made their way onto the front pages of international press, as well. A popular Romanian daily - Evenimentul Zilei - had a large picture of Mr. Boboc's dead body on their front page.

Authorities have said that it will be very difficult to establish who exactly killed Mr. Boboc considering the fact that the people beating him, according to witnesses, were wearing masks. Since multiple police officers were kicking protesters who were ordered to lie down, it is also difficult to establish which kick was fatal.

Communist authorities, which were in power during April, have denied ordering the repression campaign, although Interior Minister Papuc, who coordinated the activity of police forces on the night of April 7 and later, told prosecutors that he followed orders from leaders at the time.

Interim President: NATO membership not an issue at the moment because of heterogeneity of Alliance party members

Moldovan interim President and Speaker Mihai Ghimpu said during a joint press conference with Romanian President Traian Basescu yesterday that NATO membership is not a current issue in Chisinau because the programs of the ruling coalition parties "are different."

Mr. Ghimpu is referring to the fact that the Democratic Party, considered to be the more centrist member of the Alliance for European Integration, is more skeptical about NATO membership than the other four parties making up the coalition.

The opposition Party of Communists is adamantly against NATO membership, and polls show that whereas most Moldovans want to join the European Union, a majority does not want to join NATO.

Moldova ranked third in Russian wine imports in 2009

According to data provided by a research center in Russia, Moldova ranked third in wine imports to the country in 2009.

The country shipped about 27 million liters of wine to Russia. Moldova took about 12 percent of the wine market share there. France and Bulgaria took first and second place, respectively, with 18 and 15 percent of the market.

Moldova used to be a more important wine trading partner before the Russian wine embargo in 2006, when it lost considerable market share and had to reorient its business to other countries. Recently, Moscow and Chisinau have held talks about resuming a large volume of wine exports to Russia.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New law to make identification of internet users easier, critics complain about reduction in privacy rights

According to a new law on fighting cyber-crime, internet providers will have to offer authorities any information that could be of relevance for the identification of clients.

The move is intended to fight internet crime in the country, but critics have said that it might restrict private rights. The outrage thus far seems to be rather subdued, however.

Authorities have not yet commented upon these concerns.

Romanian President promises support for E.U. integration and 100-million-Euro grant

Romanian President Traian Basescu is on an official visit to Moldova on January 27-28. He is accompanied by a large number of cabinet ministers from Bucharest.

Mr. Basescu met with a number of Moldovan officials today, including interim President and Speaker Mihai Ghimpu and Prime Minister Vlad Filat.

The Romanian head of state pledged to support Moldova's aspirations to join the E.U. and promised that Bucharest would provide a 100-million-Euro non-refundable grant for improving education infrastructure.

Mr. Basescu was greeted downtown by hundreds of pro-Romanian demonstrators. The Romanian President is rather popular with many Moldovans. He managed to garner 95 percent of the vote expressed in Moldova during the presidential election in Romania last year.

The Romanian head of state also promised to increase response time for granting citizenship to Moldovans.

The visit is seen as a sign of improving ties between Chisinau and Bucharest after the two countries had a very shaky relationship during the Communist period (2001-2009).