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Opinion

“The conflict in the Sea of Azov represents a reason to worry for Moldova” The crisis overview and the experts’ opinion

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A dangerous new crisis between Russia and Ukraine began after Russia seized 3 Ukrainian naval ships on Sunday morning, preventing them to enter the Kerch Strait – a narrow strip of water that links the Black and Azov seas and holds strategic importance for both countries.

According to the Ukrainian navy cited in the international media, a Russian vessel bumped into a Ukrainian tugboat Yany Kapu. Along with Berdiansk and Nikopol gunboats, it was transiting from Odessa to the port of Mariupol in the Sea of Azov. The Russian vessel opened fire and wounded several sailors. The tugboat Yany Kapu and the gunboat Berdiansk were disabled by the Russian forces and the undamaged Nikopol was taken under control. Russia sent two combat helicopters to the location of the incident, as reported by the Ukrainian Navy. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry declares in a statement that Russia acted “aggressively” and “illegally used force against the ships of the Ukrainian Navy.”

The office of the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko qualified the Russian action against the Ukrainian navy ships as “an act of aggression aimed at deliberately escalating the situation in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.” It also called for international condemnation of Moscow and the imposition of new sanctions. “We consider such actions categorically unacceptable and this aggression has already led to consequences,” said Petro Poroshenko.

On the other hand, the Russian FSB security service states that the border patrol boats captured the Ukrainian naval vessels by using weapons. The FSB declared it was forced to take action as the Ukrainian boats illegally entered its territorial waters and ignored warnings to stop, according to the news agency TASS. “Weapons were used with the aim of forcibly stopping the Ukrainian warships,” the FSB said. The Russian media speculates that the incident in the Kerch Strait was a conspiracy between the U.S. and Ukrainian authorities for endangering the upcoming meeting between the U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit.

Source: Twitter

As a response to the crisis, Russia temporarily blocked the passage to the Kerch Strait by placing a tanker in the waters under a bridge controlled by Russians. The access way was reopened for the civilian ships only, according to TASS.

The conflict seems to escalate even more as on Monday the Ukrainian lawmakers voted, at the initiative of the country’s president Petro Poroshenko, to declare martial law in 10 regions of Ukraine for a term of 30 days, starting in the morning of November 28th. The martial law also specifies that the election of President of Ukraine was set to March 31st, 2019.

International community

European Union and NATO support the Ukraine sovereignty and its territorial integrity and calls on Russia “to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea,” as Oana Lungescu, the spokesperson of NATO, declares in a statement to CNN. At the same time, Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs urged Ukraine and Russia “to refrain from any ratcheting up of actions or rhetoric,” as UN News reports. “[We] remind both [Russia and Ukraine] of the need to contain this incident so as to prevent a serious escalation that may have unforeseen consequences,” she said.

Source: UN News

Several European states, including Romania and Republic of Moldova expressed their concern regarding the development of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait conflict. “Aggression & violation of international law undermine the security of the whole region,” declares the service of the Romanian Ministry of External Affairs. The Moldovan Ministry of External Affairs and European Integration expressed its “profound concern” regarding the occurring events as well. “We firmly blame any acts of aggression and provocation that undermine the regional security,” the ministry said. Both Romanian and Moldovan Ministries support “the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and its rights to use its territorial waters.”

Experts’ opinion

Rosian Vasiloi, the IDIS “Viitorul” expert in security policies, qualifies the Ukrainian actions of transferring its vessels through the Kerch Strait as “not illegal,” taking into consideration the previous agreements between Russia and Ukraine. Whereas the Russian actions “are a flagrant violation of the established agreements, Kremlin trying to set new game rules in the Black and Azov seas and maintaining the position that those are territorial waters under the Russian control,” says Vasiloi.

He considers that the main objectives of the Russian actions is to discourage assistance and support from the European institutions to Ukraine in the defence and security sector, to hinder the intention of joining NATO, as well as convincing the Ukrainian citizens about the weakness of the Navy Forces and promoting the propagandist messages in the context of future Ukrainian elections.

Rosian Vasiloi expresses his expectations concerning a tough reaction from the international community, as tolerating such actions from the Russian side “is way too much.”

“I expect that the Ukrainian authorities and the EU institutions would concentrate their forces for promoting policies and measures that would sanction a possible Russia’s aggression against its neighbouring state.”

The Republic of Moldova should align to these sanctions, considers Vasiloi. “The eventual war declaration from the Russian side is not a thing to be ignored. The risks for the Republic of Moldova are high, taking into consideration the presence of Russian troops on the Moldovan territory. Therefore, a clear reaction and concrete measures from Moldovan side regarding this subject is needed.”

Denis Cenușă, the associated expert at Expert-Grup, considers that the development of the Kerch Strait conflict “will largely depend on the international community’s response.” The actions and decisions of UN, NATO and EU international organizations, as well as the position of individual countries such as the US, Germany, France and the UK, will determine the Moscow’s further steps.

“Taking into account the previous reactions of the international community to Russian aggression (Crime annexation, military action in Donbass, civilian plane MH17 crash, etc.), there is a low probability that other measures than economic and individual sanctions can stop the Russian Federation,” says Cenușă. On the other hand, he mentions that such measures may be followed by reactions of the Russian Federation, including shortening natural gas supplies, reactivating the crisis in Syria, extending economic sanctions, or triggering hybrid activities in countries vulnerable to populist movements.

“The fact that for Putin’s regime the military agenda prevails over diplomacy and “soft power” confirms an alarming direction that the Russian Federation is taking by rejecting international law and bilateral agreements.” This shows that the reformist segments of the Russian society are incapable of sanctioning Putin’s authoritarian regime, whose foreign policy is wholly dominated by militaristic visions, according to Cenușă.

Regarding the conflicting information that appeared in the Russian and Ukrainian media, the expert notices that the Russian Federation is interested in exposing the events in a way it suits. “In the last two decades, the Russian crisis situations have always been misinterpreted by the pro-government press and Russian officials. Therefore, there are no reasons to trust the statements made in the Russian media this time.”

On the background of the information mismatch, one can see what the intentions of the Russian Federation are. First, Cenușă states that Russia uses military atrocities against Ukrainian ships to discredit Petr Poroshenko’s presidency in the context of the presidential election, in which Moscow relies on the candidacy of Yulia Tymoshenko. Second, Moscow wants to flood the national and international public space with the idea that the Azov Sea is treated as a Russian internal geographical area, although in reality this area belongs to Ukraine or it is shared with Ukraine. “So, we are witnessing a new act of legitimizing the illegal integration of Crimea into the Russian territory.” Third, a new trend of expanding the Russian aggression from the earth to the sea can be observed. If in the Donbass region, Moscow claimed that the problem is in the separatist forces, which it can somehow masquerade, then in the waters of the Azov Sea this trend comes to the foreground, regardless of the misinformation angle.

Concerning the possible influence of the conflict in the region, particularly for Moldova, Cenușă points out the opinion of the international military experts suggesting that Russia is capable of anything.

“In a way, we are faced with a security and geopolitical reality easily disputed by Moscow whenever it deems necessary and neglecting any existing diplomatic framework. This represents a reason to worry, as Moldova has Russian military forces stationed in the Transnistrian region, low military training, lack of any solid strategic vision, and a local political context fragile or tolerant of Russian interference.”

The conflict backgrounds

Since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, an act that is not legally recognized by the international community, and a war with the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, these two countries have been locked in a continuous conflict. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been steadily escalating in recent months.

For example, last month, the conflict extended into the area of religion when the Ukrainian Orthodox Church officially broke free from Moscow’s control. Besides, Ukraine and the United States have been accusing Russia of interfering with international shipping in and out of the Kerch Strait for some months now.

Featured image source: CNN

Opinion

Survey// Popular COVID-19 fake news in Moldova and people’s (dis)information sources

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More and more Moldovans have to deal with fake news every day. Unfortunately, a part of population believes them. According to a survey conducted by the WatchDog.MD community, in cooperation with CBS Research, the degree of acceptance of various false statements indicates an extremely high level of trust in such manipulations among Moldovan citizens.

For example, when asked about quite a few popular fake statements that circulate the whole world regarding the novel coronavirus, the survey participants answered the following:

  • 50.4% of respondents believe that the virus is no more dangerous than a flu and that it was intentionally made to destroy the economy;
  • 37.8% of respondents admitted that the virus was created by Bill Gates, in order to introduce nano-chips in the bodies and control them;
  • 37,2% of questioned people think that the COVID-19 virus was created in a Chinese laboratory;
  • 35,9% of them said the pandemic is an excuse to impose a global Government that will rule the whole world;
  • 33,4% of participants consider garlic a remedy for coronavirus;
  • 32.7% of persons who answered the survey dangerously consider that the virus is a myth and everything is just a lie;
  • 32,3% of them are sure that only old people get infected and die;
  • 32,2% of survey participants believe that democratic regimes have bigger troubles with managing the crisis than the dictatorial ones;
  • 29.7% of persons said the EU will collapse due to the novel virus;
  • 28.8% of respondents fear the COVID-19 tests are already infected when getting tested.

And these are, by far, not all false statements some Moldovans declared as being true during the survey. Some respondents think that the virus is spread in the Republic of Moldova through the 5G technology (11.7%), even though there is no such technology used in the country yet. Others claimed that the European Union didn’t offer any support to Moldova during the pandemic crisis (21.3%), despite the existing facts they can easily check.

Out of 1003 respondents, only one denied absolutely all false or manipulating statements.

At the same time, 45% of the Moldovan citizens who answered the opinion poll don’t trust at all or trust very little the World Health Organisation as a source of information. 5.2% of them don’t even know anything about the organisation.

When it comes to the local information sources, the survey respondents claimed that they merely find out what’s new by watching TV (77.2%), by accessing web pages (42.2%), various social media platforms (35.7%), such as Facebook, Odnoklasniki, Instagram and Vkontakte, or talk to family members (12.7%), friends and neighbours (15.1%).

Another important aspect is that only 1.4% of respondents inform themselves in any other language than Romanian, Russian or both. Even so, 16.3% of survey participants said it is rather hard or very hard for them to understand what news are accurate and whether the information presented is true or not.

A crucial source of disinformation for people of Moldova, which is not mentioned in the options of the survey though, is the church. Lately, the Moldovan Orthodox Church spread dangerous fakes about COVID-19 vaccination, nano-chipping and 5G.

See also: The Moldovan Orthodox Church spread dangerous fakes about COVID-19 vaccination, nano-chipping and 5G

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The survey was conducted at the national level between May 5-11, being part of the project “Facilitating crisis communication and accountability as a civic response to COVID-19 pandemic in Moldova”. It was implemented with the support of the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation of the German Marshall Fund and involved 1003 persons aged 18 years and over.

The study measured political trends, geo-political preferences, media consumption, as well as the impact of manipulative rhetoric, false news and conspiracy theories in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo: Lukas Blazek| Unsplash

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Culture

Generation C – a documentary by Moldova.org about shepherding in Moldova and Georgia // VIDEO

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At the end of January, Moldova.org presented the premiere of the documentary Generation C, a film about an occupation that was passed on from father to son – shepherding.

The documentary tells the story of Vaso and Anatolie – two men, one from the Georgian mountains and another from the south of Moldova – and displays the activity of their lives, that of their fathers, grandparents and great-grandparents. But will it be inherited by their sons as well?

Anatolie Ciobanu (his name is translated as shepherd) lives in Alexandru Ioan Cuza village, Cahul district. He has several hundred sheep and says he may run out of them one day.

Vaso Gulelauri lives in Lalisquri Village, Telavi, Georgia with his family. When he is not taking care of sheep and is not at home, he spends his time in the mountains. He has never been to the sea, because he loves the mountains too much.

In the last 20 years, the number of sheep in the Republic of Moldova has almost halved. The same thing happened in Georgia. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia had about two million sheep. Now, the figure reaches one million only.

The documentary can be watched below:

„Generation C” documentary (english subtitles)

Prieteni, astăzi publicăm documentarul „Generația C” subtitrat în limba engleză! Deci vă invităm să-l distribuiți și să-l arătați prietenilor voștri care nu vorbesc româna sau georgiana și rusa. ^_^Într-o eră a Internetului, vitezei și industrializării, doi ciobani, unul moldovean, altul georgian, ne-au împărtășit istoriile lor și ne-au vorbit despre tradiția transmisă lor de bunicii și tații lor.Pe lângă imaginile pitorești, bucuria celor doi este că încă mai pot împărtăși această cutumă cu fii lor. Dar oare vor fi cei doi oieri și ultima generație de ciobani din familiile lor? Găsiți răspunsul în documentarul nostru, „Generația C”.

Geplaatst door Moldova.org op Maandag 18 mei 2020

This text is a translation. The original article here.

Photos: Moldova.org| Tatiana Beghiu

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Society

The Moldovan Orthodox Church spread dangerous fakes about COVID-19 vaccination, nano-chipping and 5G

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Religion is an essential part of almost every Moldovan citizen’s life. The majority of Moldova’s people describe themselves as being religious – almost 93% of the population. 90% of the total population declared they follow Orthodoxy, governed by the Eastern Orthodox Church, according to the national census conducted in 2014.

Therefore, the Moldovan Orthodox Church (MOC) is the one that introduces and approves the most important religious and everyday life practices for 90% of Moldova’s population, but it is also responsible for a lot of stereotypes, stigmas, myths, beliefs and disbelief spread in the Moldovan society.

This week, two messages of the Moldovan Orthodox Church were addressed to the state authorities. One of them referred to the restrictions imposed on the activity of the churches from Moldova during the Public Health Emergency period. Another urged the government to refrain from compulsory vaccination of the population, when a vaccine against COVID-19 would be made available. What is even worse, the second message included false information about nano-chipping and 5G technology.

First, the MOC representatives didn’t agree with the latest provisions issued by the National Extraordinary Public Health Commission, which established that religious ceremonies will continue to be held in churchyards, keeping social distance, until June 30. “We have been looking forward to lifting more restrictions, and that postponement is outrageous, disgusting and even embarrassing,” is mentioned in the letter of the religious institution.

Earlier, on March 13, the Moldovan authorities announced that all religious ceremonies have to be ceased for a period of 14 days. However, the Moldovan Orthodox Church encouraged the local churches’ representatives from all over the country to continue their activity, defying any rules imposed.

See also: How does coronavirus spread? Churches can easily become a contagion epicentre

“If you like to call yourselves Christians, why didn’t you follow the example of Georgia or Bulgaria, which did not interrupt the religious ceremonies and have a lower mortality rate? When removing the restrictions, why didn’t you follow the example of Spain and other states that were much more affected and, still, allowed 30% entering in churches since last Sunday?”

The letter claimed that a denigration campaign was launched against the Church, by using such expressions as “outbreaks of infection”, “insanitary spaces”, “medieval practices” in the officials’ messages addressed to the population. Also, a request to participate in the decision-making process was made. “We welcome the initiative to invite (to negotiations) the representatives of the Moldovan Orthodox Church and to reformulate the decision in accordance with the norms of Christian morality. Otherwise, we assume the canonical and moral right to exclude you from the remembrance and prayer of the Church,” threatened the members of the Church Synod.

At the same time, the clergy said that the decisions regarding changing or adapting religious practices should be taken only by the Church, not by the state.

The Metropolitan of Chisinau and All Moldova during the state of emergency.

In the second letter, addressed to the Moldovan officials, MOC called on voluntary vaccination of the population against the novel coronavirus. They also demanded the assurance of all fundamental rights of people who would refuse vaccines, but also to implant any chip in their body.

“Public opinion in many European countries is protesting against the mandatory vaccines, especially the vaccine against COVID-19, because it is considered a way of the global Antichrist system to introduce microchips into people’s bodies, with which to control them through 5G technology.”

The hallucinating declarations continued with blaming Bill Gates of creating “the micro-chipping technology through a vaccine that introduces nano-particles (or microchips?) into the body, which react to waves transmitted by 5G technology and allow the system to control humans remotely,” according to the MOC official message.

The evasive accusations are very similar to the discrediting campaigns that, according to the stopfals.md portal, are supported by several media institutions and blogs around the world, usually affiliated with various religious organisations, but also by sites with pro-Kremlin editorial policy.

“It is believed that 5G technology in combination with certain vaccines administered in China and Italy represented the basis for the appearance of this virus that turned the entire planet upside down,” speculated the MOC leaders, citing the declaration of an Italian MP, Sara Cunial, who called Bill Gates a murderer and asked to hand him over to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Additionally, two more very dubious article published in a media outlet from Romania were used as references.

The MOC messages addressed to Moldovan authorities can be downloaded here.

The national Ombudsman expressed his concern regarding the MOC declarations. “The public launch of messages referring to dangers in the area of conspiracy scenarios is a reckless act that can generate panic and adverse consequences for social order, as well as insecurity and distrust in the country’s medical services, thus thwarting the efforts of the authorities to combat the epidemic,” is mentioned in a press release issued on the official page of the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman called on the leadership of the MOC to withdraw its request to the authorities and to refrain from other messages that could have a detrimental effect on public health, social order and human rights.

Similar positions had the Moldovan officials to whom the MOC messages were addressed, state institutions’ representatives, MPs, members of the Moldovan Academy of Sciences, and even church servants.

“These lies are not just meaningless fantasies, they are extremely dangerous because they fuel people’s scepticism about the efforts of doctors and researchers to get rid of this calamity called COVID-19. And this, dear Church leaders, endangers human lives!” commented the MP Radu Marian.

The Moldovan Orthodox Church consciously spread dangerous myths, while it is considered a credible source of information for a lot of religious people from Moldova. That could have serious consequences, as religious fanatics refusing to be vaccinated, a manipulated public opinion and a population opposing technology development. People should use their critical thinking in discerning information, even when they fully trust the Church, contrary to the frequent habit of believing without questioning.

Photos: Facebook| The Metropolitan of Chisinau and All Moldova

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