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.