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Weekly Roundup: UN human rights expert visit, Rome 5+2 talks set deadlines, and Rogozin’s money left Transnistria

Representatives of the Sides, Mediators and Observers during the meeting of the 5+2 talks on the Transnistrian Settlement Process, Rome, 30 May 2018. (OSCE)

3 June 2018- While this week has been more about the debates between the main contenders for Chișinău’s mayor seat, some important things took place and have been said.


Hammarberg comes back: The United Nations human rights expert, Thomas Hammarberg, undertook a visit to Moldova between 28 May and 1 June. In a preliminary statement, Hammarberg remarked the increased level (compared to 2013) of HR awareness in the Transnistrian region in key sectors: persons with disabilities, prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, etc. According to him, the general situation improved, especially in the approach taken by the civil society groups.

Nevertheless, the UN expert argues that there are still major concerns in the institutional approach towards human rights in the Transnistrian region. There is concern in the situation of Roma people and the activity of NGOs.


1/5: One out of every five women in Moldova has been subjected to sexual harassment at work, and one out of every five female students sexually harassed in the education system, reports Balkan Insight referring to a study by Partnership for Development Centre.

Of the women who said they had been harassed at work, four per cent said they had been asked for sex in return for certain rewards, intimidated or threatened with force.


Are you rich? Get the Moldovan citizenship!

MPs in Moldova are involved in a row over amendments to the country’s citizenship law, initiated by the ruling “pro-European” Democrat Party and expected to pass next week – which some say will worsen corruption. (Mădălina Necșuțu, Balkan Insight)

Under the amended rules, investors who want to acquire Moldovan citizenship as a result of their investments will no longer be obliged to learn the official language or study the constitution, as other applicants must do. Another important issue is that the presidential decree, which grants Moldovan citizenship for investors, will not contain the full names of the investors. Thus, the new “citizens” will remain anonymous.

Some MPs are angry about the proposed changes, saying they will worsen corruption and even undermine security. Roman Boțan, head of the parliament’s National Security Committee, resigned from his post, protesting that the changes could create “risks to national security, but also of corruption”.


Could An Oligarch Build a Democracy in Moldova?

Dumitru Alaiba of CPR Moldova argues in an opinion for German Marshall Fund that an oligarch like Vlad Plahotniuc cannot build a properly functioning democracy.

The country is degrading and falling into isolation, as the country’s oligarch, Vladimir Plahotniuc is tightening his grip. Plahotniuc emerged from nowhere in 2010 to become the most influential politician. His ruling Democratic Party received 15 percent of votes in late 2014. About one year later it forged a de facto majority in the Parliament. There has been much speculation about what attracted many lawmakers to the billionaire, but it is unlikely to be his sparkling personality.


1,6 billion: According to a report published by the Financial Intelligence Service of the Estonian police, about 1,6 billion dollars was spent through Estonia on the Russian-Moldovan ‘Laundromat’ scheme from 2011 to 2014. More from Jam News.


The Hand that Feeds: Despite a flow of funds from the EU, Gagauzia’s citizens still pine for Russia. But why?

Some argue that locals have little integration within Moldova and that Russian media, popular in the region, or even the Moldovan media, rarely covers the European assistance impact.


Ukraine’s thirst for Nistru/Dniester: 

“If Ukraine continues to insist on the construction of hydropower plants on the Nistru River, the relations with the Republic of Moldova will worsen”, Victor Juc, vice director of the Institute of Legal and Political Research of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, stated in the program “Emphasis on today” produced by TVR Moldova channel,  IPN reports.

But really, Ukraine might lose a friendly neighbor in its attempts to secure its energy security.


Ukraine Puts a Dent in Transnistria’s Separatist Steel Industry

Igor Munteanu voiced his argument for Emerging Europe that Ukrainian sanctions against the steel factory from Transnistria, Ribnita Steelworks (MMZ), is not just a coincidence.

According to former ambassador to the US, Ukraine wants to send a message that the Transnistrian conflict settlement cannot be pushed forward by mediators:

Sanctions could also be interpreted also as a soft warning against the ‘small steps’ policy of the OSCE and other mediators looking to end the long-running dispute between Moldova and Transnistria, which has for too long turned a blind eye to the real factors that keep the separatist regime afloat – the active involvement of Russian oligarchs in capturing valuable assets, subsidising separatism via discriminatory pricing, military threats and the maintenance of Russian regular troops in Transnistria against the wishes of the Moldovan government.

Oh yeah, almost forgot: Poroshenko is also satisfying the needs of Ukrainian steel oligarchs.


Rogozin’s money left for space: Remember Russia’s Vice-PM (harsh-language-philosopher) Dmitry Rogozin?

Well, apparently, his NGO “European Integration” left 40 Transnistrian companies without almost 2 million US dollars. According to local media, the NGO was supposed to pay the works for 14 social projects in the region, but did not until now.

Now that Rogozin is not the Russian Vice-Premier, but (only) a director at Rosskosmos, who knows if the money will be paid ultimately? Maybe the Transnistrian contractors can find the money in space or at the ISS.


New deadlines after 5+2 talks in Rome:

Italian Chairmanship organized a series of 5+2 talks in Rome on 29-30 May. The result of these talks is a(nother) protocol reinforcing the power of the “package of eight” agreed in Berlin in 2016. Chișinău and Tiraspol were “encouraged” to pursue the goals of this package.

Representatives of the Sides, Mediators and Observers during the meeting of the 5+2 talks on the Transnistrian Settlement Process, Rome, 30 May 2018. (OSCE)

Moreover, it was agreed to set 3 goals and 3 deadlines on 3 issues:

  • to finalize the implementation of the agreement on the use of farmlands in the Dubasari district by 1 August 2018;
  • to ensure
    the launching of the mechanism of participation of vehicles from Transnistria in the international road traffic on 1 September 2018;
  • to agree by the end of June 2018 on a concrete roadmap for the fulfillment of the agreement on organizing
    interaction in the field of telecommunications and proceed to its swift implementation in close co-ordination with all partners involved.

Rumor says that the Transnistrian “foreign minister”, Vitaly Ignatiev, complained to the mediators and observers about the “blockade” imposed by the joint border checkpoints of Moldova and Ukraine. Chișinău’s chief negotiator, Cristina Lesnic, dismissed these complaints as something that belongs to Moldovan-Ukrainian relations, not to the Transnistrian conflict settlement, nor to the “small steps” policy.

The official OSCE press-release is here.


Meanwhile at the Gura Bîcului-Bîcioc bridge: No changes.

Within the Joint Control Commission, Chișinău and Tiraspol reps exchange opinions as usual, but no consensus over the demilitarization of the reopened bridge is not found.


The Chișinău mayoral elections results are coming in as this roundup is being written.

Stay tuned and follow Moldova.org! 

Important

Weekly Roundup: Protests continue in Chișinău, IMF’s third tranche, and NATO’s done with Soviet pesticides

Just a banner from a protest in Chișinău, 1 July 2018

1 July 2018- Here’s another Weekly Roundup. Protests again in Chișinău and many other things…


“Let’s stop the dictator!”: Hundreds of protesters gathered in the Great National Assembly Square on Sunday. They asked for the validation of the results of Chișinău mayor elections, suggesting that the oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, obviously bothered by Năstase’s win, influenced the judicial decision. On June 29th, the Central Electoral Commission took the decision to invalidate the results, after Moldova’s Supreme Court annulled the results.

The initial invalidation decision was a claim that 3 Facebook live videos posted by Năstase on election day and calling people to vote allegedly influenced the results.

The protesters were creative on Sunday’s protest too. Sometimes, sadly creative:


“It’s much more profitable for him to victimize himself”- Moldova’s PM Pavel Filip about mayor-elect-not-validated Andrei Năstase (Washington Post).


DW is attempting to call the current protests Moldova’s Maidan. The leader of the protest movement, Andrei Năstase, is denying this designation, underlining the importance of peaceful means of political protesting.


Here’s Atlantic Council with a bunch of opinions on what’s this protest-thingy is all about for Moldova.


Moldova’s Democratic Façade Crumbles as Supreme Court Invalidates Democratic Election: Mihai Popșoi argues for Jamestown Foundation that Plahotniuc’s smokes and mirrors (read: PR and lobby done outside Moldova) used to hide his anti-democratic techniques might take Moldova back into Russia’s orbit, eventually.


Mogherini and Hahn: We expect the Moldovan authorities to take measures ensuring Chișinău election results are respected

According to Mogherini and Hahh, the “non-transparent invalidation of the mayoral elections in Chișinău”, confirmed by Moldova’s Supreme Court on June 25th, “deprives the people of Chișinău of their democratically-elected mayor, Mr. Andrei Năstase(…)”.

The EU officials are asking the Moldovan authorities to take “appropriate measures” to ensure the election results are respected.
(…)we expect the Moldovan authorities to take appropriate measures to ensure that the results of the Chisinau mayoral elections, as recognised also by national and international observers and reflecting the will of the voters, are respected.

Скузаци, вэ рог: The European Commission’s President has apologized after the phrase ‘Moldovan language’ appeared on its website- calling it a “regrettable administrative error”.

Last month, in the section on the Consultation on the Future of Europe, an option allowed readers to select their preferred language of use – including “Romanian language/Moldovan language”. The Romanian vice-president of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Andi Cristea, called for the error to be repaired as soon as possible. If only Cristea was more strict with his S&D colleagues, the Moldovan Democrats, as he is with linguistic matters…


“I was informed about fabricated penal charges”: The statement belongs to the UN Human Rights Council expert, Michel Forst, during his visit to the Republic of Moldova. Forst called on the authorities to stop intimidating the human rights defenders and the civil society representatives.


$33,8 million: The IMF approved the review for a new (third in the current programme) disbursement for Moldova.

…the 2018 budget amendment accommodates priority infrastructure needs and other social assistance, consistent with program objectives. Priority spending should be protected, the wage bill should be contained relative to GDP, and budget overruns ahead of the elections should be avoided. (Tao Zhang, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair of the IMF Executive Board)

The ECF/EFF arrangements in a total amount of SDR 129,4 million (about US$178,7 million, or 75% of the Republic of Moldova’s quota).


“Transnistria made the first profit from cryptocurrency”: The first mining capacity has already started working, and the government has received its first revenues, prime-minister of the separatist region Alexandr Martynov declared. According to Intellnews, there are multiple sources of revenues: the taxes charged to companies carrying out blockchain mining operations, but also the price of the gas used by the Cuciurgan plant. The latter is reportedly used at its maximum capacity.


1269 tons of Soviet-era chemicals were collected and transported from Moldova for destruction in Poland, with NATO’s support. On 28 June 2018, a NATO-sponsored project focused on the disposal of pesticides and dangerous chemicals in the Republic of Moldova ended.

The last batch of 31 tons of pesticides collected from Sîngerei, Drochia, Edineț districts and Bălţi Municipality were evacuated on the last day from the regional central warehouse from Alexandreni village.

The total cost of the project was 2,2 million euros, covered through a NATO Trust Fund.


Moldovan Church Sidelines Priest In Spat Over LGBT Support: Ghidighici-based priest, Maxim Melinti, was relegated to the role of spectator by the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which banned him indefinitely from officiating services as of June 21, alleging he was “promoting and encouraging sexual minorities and contributing to the development of the LGBT movement in the Republic of Moldova.”

“In me, many have found the man who will understand them and treat them with respect. I do not judge anyone, I just help people get to Christ”, he told reporters at a press conference on June 26. (Radio Free Europe)


Over and out. Come by next week!

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Weekly Roundup: Facebook Live’s influence on election results, UNGA adopts Moldovan resolution, Democrat ambassador to the US

"Stolen vote"

It’s a new Weekly Roundup here, at Moldova.org. How much does it influence your opinion?


Facebook Live and independent Moldovan judges: 

The Central branch of the Chișinău court didn’t validate the results of the recent mayoral elections in Moldova’s capital. Thus, the mandate of the mayor-elect Andrei Năstase (won by 52,57% in the 2nd round) was not validated.

Mayor-elect Andrei Năstase

The Chișinău court decision was based on a claim that 3 Facebook live videos posted by Năstase on election day and calling people to vote allegedly influenced the results. The court decided to annul the results based on a complaint filed by the Socialists’ Party, but later even Năstase’s former opponent Ion Ceban declared he wanted the court “just to notice some violations”, not to completely cancel the election results. Despite large protests in the Moldovan capital, the Chișinău Appeal Court maintained the decision of the lower court.

Sunday saw another day of large protests, with more young voters and more innovative slogans coming here and there. The protesters are waiting for Moldova’s Supreme Court of Justice to have its last word, and they showed signs of willing to protests if their democratic will is not heard or “obstructed by political influence” (hint: Democratic Party of Moldova- PDM).

Radio Free Europe has a video of the protesting crowd:

Our Ana Gherciu has some photos of people’s slogans today:

“The face of a disappointed person”

“Sorry, we don’t produce as much as you steal!”

“The people are not like a cow: you milk, it stays silent”

“Today I am in the sun so that he stays at cold” (implied “in the prison”)

Slogans and posters aside, the real questions are not even how much Facebook LIVE videos can influence voting preferences, but something else: How independent is the Moldovan justice system? How desperate are those canceling election results with the help of judges?


Meanwhile, the EU and the US are closely monitoring the judicial process around the Chișinău mayoral election results.


UN General Assembly adopts Moldova’s resolution on withdrawal of “foreign military forces” from its territory:

The resolution calls on the UN Member States to urge the Russian Federation to “complete orderly, unconditionally and without further delay the withdrawal of the Russian Operational Group of Russian Forces” (more commonly known as OGRT or OGRV), in accordance to its commitment agreed at the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Summit, but also the UN Charter. The Russian request to examine to take “no action” on Moldova’s resolution was rejected.

Put to vote, the resolution was adopted with a simple majority of 64 votes in favor, 15 against, and 83 abstentions.

Here’s how the voting went:

More about the resolution here.


Sham coincidences: On June 21st, the Russian Federation told the JCC that the military columns moving last week had the goal to increase security at the munition deposit in Colbasna (some 21 thousand tons of munitions are still stored there since Soviet times) in the wake of possible “terrorist acts and provocative actions” during the World Cup. The JCC could not approve the weekly security report because of disagreement over attaching video proof of the columns to the documents.

22 June, 11 am, NYC time- The UN General Assembly adopts the resolution on the withdrawal of Russian troops- the so-called OGRT- stationed in the Transnistrian region of Moldova.

23 June, 4.00 am to 1.15 pm: Four columns of military vehicles were spotted moving unannounced on the Dubăsari-Grigoriopol-Tiraspol road. Back from Colbasna, apparently.

According to Chișinău, approximately 11 TABs and 25 trucks (URAL, ZIL, UAZ) were moving on the road without any symbols of belonging to either the OGRT or the peacekeeping mission, with number plates missing. Moreover, the columns were accompanied by the Transnistrian “special police forces”.

The Moldovan delegation managed to gather military observers from all the peacekeeping parties. When asked to stop, the military vehicles reportedly did not react in any way.

So, did the World Cup end already? 🙂

Moldova.org is following the case with the OSCE Mission to Moldova, as well.


New Ambassador to the US, now in a “Democrat VP” shape!

Moldova’s new Ambassador to the United States, H.E. Cristina Balan, recently presented the accreditation letter to POTUS, Donald Trump.

Oval Office – Credentialing Ceremony for Newly Appointed Ambassadors to the US Cristina Balan

More skilled in the business sector, Balan has come into the diplomatic mission as a result of the nomination of her party, PDM.

Balan himself is the Vice-President of the Moldovan Democrats and is known to be the right-hand of oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc in handling foreign affairs.

More on her profile:

Democrat VP Cristina Balan nominated as Moldova Ambassador to the US


New US Ambassador to Moldova coming soon:

President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate Derek J. Hogan of Virginia as US Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova. Rumor says that current Ambassador James D. Pettit is going to retire, needing a replacement.

 While it was hard to find a picture of the future Ambassador to Moldova, it was much easier to find a description of his career:

Mr. Derek J. Hogan, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1997.  He is currently Deputy Executive Secretary of the United States Department of State, a position he has held since 2017.  Mr. Hogan is one of the Department of State’s experts on Eastern Europe, having served five tours working in or on Eastern Europe, including Russia.  He has held senior leadership positions both at United States missions overseas and domestically for the Department of State.  Mr. Hogan most recent overseas tours – as Chargé d’affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission in Azerbaijan from 2013 to 2016 and as the Department of State Representative on the civilian-military Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Southern (Uruzgan Province) and Eastern (Kunar Province) Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009 – have demonstrated that he possesses the leadership, management, innovation, and communication abilities needed to succeed in complex operating environments.  Mr. Hogan earned a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and a M.P.A. from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.  He is the recipient of multiple Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards from the Department of State.  Mr. Hogan speaks Russian and Spanish.

We will miss H.E. Pettit for his sharp honesty.


“Energetic” Moldovan-Russian-Romanian spy: Russian news reports say an executive with energy holding

company Inter RAO has been arrested and charged with spying for an unnamed foreign country. The executive is Karina Turcan, a Moldovan national, who is accused by Russian FSB for spying for the Romanian intelligence.

Turcan oversaw electricity trades in parts of Eastern Europe, including Moldova, reports Radio Free Europe and Rosbalt.


MoldovaAgroindbank slice goes to the EBRD: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said it would take part, together with two private equity firms, Invalda and Horizon Capital, in an auction to buy a 41,09 percent stake in Moldova’s largest commercial bank, Moldova Agroindbank. (Reuters)


Over and out.

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Weekly Roundup: Moldova’s UN resolution, Russians move within Security Zone, and the “Grand Theft” recovery strategy

It’s a late edition of Moldova.org’s Weekly Roundup.


Moldova’s UN General Assembly resolution: On 15 June 2018, the Foreign Minister of Moldova, Tudor Ulianovschi, announced on Friday about the registration of a draft resolution on the “withdrawal of foreign military forces” at the United Nations Secretariat.

The resolution titled “Complete and unconditional withdrawal of foreign military forces from the territory of the Republic of Moldova” is expected to be addressed to the UN General Assembly on June 22nd. Around 10 states are sponsors of the resolution. The resolution calls on the UN Member States to urge the Russian Federation to “complete orderly, unconditionally and without further delay the withdrawal of the Russian Operational Group of Russian Forces” (more commonly known as OGRT or OGRV), in accordance to its commitment agreed at the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Summit, but also the UN Charter.

Foreign Minister Ulianovschi emphasized that the resolution does not call for the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping contingent which is under the command of the Joint Control Commission, the main peacekeeping mechanism in the Transnistrian conflict settlement.

Moscow and Tiraspol are (obviously) not happy about the resolution (1st page2nd page), nor are some experts in the area.

Vlad Lupan, Moldova’s ex-Ambassador to UN, has found the draft resolution language too soft and imprecise on the terms of the withdrawal, and on the impartiality of Russia in the Transnistrian conflict settlement and the acting peacekeeping mission. Ambassador Lupan didn’t bother going deep into the details of the resolution.


Pure coincidence: Three columns of military vehicles, apparently Russian, were reported to be moving on the Tiraspol-Râbnița road in the Transnistrian region of Moldova in the morning of June 14th.

Some 40 TABs, DRDMs, URALs, ZILs, KAMAZes, and UAZes, accompanied by Transnistrian “police” were spotted on their way to the north of the region- most probably, to the Colbasna military depot.

The Moldovan Bureau of Reintegration expressed its concern in regard to the unauthorized movement of these military units within the presumably demilitarized Security Zone. Chișinău declared that it found “unjustified” application of “peacekeeping forces” symbols on the vehicles, most of which belong to the Operative Group of Russian Troops, illegally stationed in Moldova.

Moldova’s Bureau of Reintegration declares that the 4th article- the neutrality of the Russian army dislocated in the region-, of the 1992 Moldo-Russian Agreement on Transnistrian conflict settlement was violated, as well as the JCC provisions on preliminary informing on any movement of non-peacekeeping contingents.

The OSCE was notified about the incident. Neither Moscow, nor Tiraspol has come out with any position on the incident. Ukraine naturally “expressed its concern”.


Meanwhile, OGRT is not ceasing to conduct other “peaceful” activities in the Transnistrian region.

Here, the Russian officers congratulated some 50 Transnistrian children with their admission into the “Youth Army”:

Orthodoxy, militarism and Soviet nostalgia- the pillars of Russia’s policy in the occupied territories in one picture:

Of course, the Russian soldiers from OGRT participated in the Russia Day celebrations in Transnistria. A video can be found here.


Sticking to Russia: Moldovan Parliament speaker, Andrian Candu, declared in an interview for Censor that Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia might come with a joint judicial complaint on the issue of Russian-occupied territories.

Candu also told the Ukrainian portal that President Dodon can be judged for “high treason”, but then interpreted it otherwise for the Moldovan press.

One cannot take Candu’s promises seriously. In regard to the joint complaint, we should expect an evaluation of the damage by the Russian occupation, at most.


Sticking to occupied territories: Transnistrian Communist “MP” Oleg Khorzhan was placed under arrest for 2 months, being accused of violently opposing arrest. On June 2nd, Khorzhan organized a non-sanctioned meeting in Tiraspol against the “oligarchic power”.


15%: GDP in the separatist region grew by 15.1% in comparable prices in the 1st quarter of 2018, after a deep plunge of around 30% in the past couple of years. The information was distributed by “PMR’s government”, IntelliNews reports, underlining the importance of EU exports in the region’s economy.


The “Grand Theft” Recovery Strategy: The Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office, together with the National Anti-Corruption Center and the General Prosecution Office, presented its 30-pages-or-so long strategy on recovering the stolen one billion EUR/USD from the three failed banks in 2014.

What prosecutors don’t (want to) tell the public is the names of the beneficiaries of the “Grand Theft”. Moreover, according to Newsmaker, there seems to be a small division between the bank thefts and the corruption cases that occurred during 2014.

The prosecutors reported that only 3,5% of the value of the stolen money was recovered. It’s 2018, by the way.


Heard of Moldovan justice independence? 

A Chișinău court has postponed a confirmation hearing for pro-European Mayor-elect Andrei Năstase, whose election two weeks ago has been challenged by Socialists. Supporters of Nastase rallied outside as Chisinau City Court postponed the hearing on June 18 after the Chisinau District Electoral Council filed a motion to replace the judge. The court did not set a new date, reports Radio Free Europe.

Meanwhile at another Chișinău court:

Source: tv8.md


30% increase of budget for 2021-2027: The European Commission is proposing a 30 percent increase in its 2021-27 external-action budget, with a focus set on helping countries in its southern and eastern “neighborhoods” to raise standards in their efforts to join the European Union, Radio Free Europe reports.


What is pain? Patients with incurable diseases have something to say:

Ask here the palliative care foundation Hospice Angelus Moldova how you can relieve the pain of those patients.

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