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OSCE Observer from Moldova, Vitalie Zara, dies in a car accident in Kramatorsk, Eastern Ukraine

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Source: Ministerul Apărării al Republicii Moldova

18 January 2018- A Moldovan citizen, Vitalie Zara, deceased as result of a car accident in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region of Ukraine. A former commander of “Fulger” Special Battalion of Moldova and participant in the 1992 war on Nistru, Zara was an observer with the OSCE Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.

According to kramatorsk.info, the OSCE observer was a victim of the accident between the taxi he took and a truck.

Before the mission in Eastern Ukraine, reserve Colonel Zara had been an observer in Côte d’Ivoire.

Moldova’s Ministry of Defense expressed its condolences in regard to Colonel’s death. In a message, the Ministry underlined Zara’s participation in numerous national and international exercises, as well as his mission as a military observer in UN-mandated peacekeeping missions.

Currently studying International Relations at the University of Pécs, Hungary. Study focus: Transnistrian conflict settlement, Moldovan statehood, Moldovan democracy. Inquiries at [email protected]

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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

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Politics

Eugen Tomac: Reunification of Romania and Bessarabia – a viable process that has to be promoted in Brussels

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The reunification of Bessarabia with Romania is a “realistic” and “doable” process that has “begun” by the action of regaining Romanian citizenship by one million Moldovans, declared the president of the People’s Movement Party (PMP), Eugen Tomac.

“If we had a more brave political class, more responsible and a more developed patriotism, maybe the unification process would have already happened,” Agerpres writes.

Eugen Tomac reminded about at the initiative of President Traian Basescu in 2009: that the process of regaining Romanian citizenship was unblocked and that at present, out of almost 3.5 million Moldovan citizens, one million have a Romanian passport, being citizens with regular acts of Romania.

“So, Romania took the first step towards reunification. Of course, this process, after a long Soviet period of denationalization, does not happen so quickly, especially since, at least in the last four years, Romania did not have a coherent policy of maintaining that trend of closeness which President Basescu has drawn. My conviction is that the process is irreversible,” the PMP president said.

Eugen Tomac pointed out that more than 60 of the 101 deputies in the Parliament of Chisinau, “of all political colors”, hold Romanian citizenship.

The PMP leader believes that the topic of reunification should be taken, “with the arguments we have” to Brussels, and it will also be one of the messages that the party will promote in the campaign of the European Parliament.

“It does not happen overnight, it will not be an easy process, there will be difficult negotiations, but I think we are currently gathering all the data for this to happen. But everything depends on the vision that the Government of Bucharest must have, implicitly the president. Therefore it’s realistic,” concluded Eugen Tomac.

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Important

An outline of the ‘Open Dialog’ scandal. PAS and DTPP in the gunsight of the Moldovan Parliament

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Yesterday, November 12th the second meeting of the parliamentary commission on the investigation concerning the Open Dialog Foundation took place. Initially, the representative of PAS (Party of Action and Solidarity) declared in a press release that Maia Sandu will go in the Parliament hearing in order to “make things clear and to end the lies spread in the so-called enquiry regarding the PAS funding sources.”

Maia Sandu and Andrei Nastase, the leaders of the electoral bloc “ACUM”, were waiting at the parliament entrance ready to enter along with the journalists, when they were announced that the commission would meet in a closed session and they are invited to the hearing one by one. Sandu and Nastase refused to participate, declaring it a farce. “There are no reasons for having the meeting in a closed session. We are not government workers. We don’t have any obligations to keep state secrets and they can’t discuss them with us”, mentioned Sandu. They organised a press conference right at the entrance of the Parliament. “There are two main goals of these closed meetings: first, discrediting PAS and DTPP (Dignity and Truth Platform Party), and the second, trying to remove our parties from the electoral campaign”, mentions Sandu during the press conference.

As official sources state, the main objective of the enquiry commission was to collect and analyse information, as well as to formulate recommendations, without any legal competences. Still, the president of the parliamentary commission – Igor Vremea, declared after the second hearing, that the leaders of PAS and DTPP were “obliged” by law to come at the second session, as the main scope was to hear their opinion on the information provided for the commission.

Background information

On October 4th, the Moldovan Parliament formed, at the initiative of DPM, an enquiry commission for elucidating the allegations of the Open Dialog Foundation and its founder’s – Ludmila Kozlowska, interference in the domestic affairs of the Republic of Moldova, as well as funding PAS and DTPP political parties.

The first official hearing was organised on November 2nd. It also was a meeting in closed session. From the very beginning, Maia Sandu asked to be summoned to a public hearing and refused to make statements to the committee in a closed session. According to the PAS leader, the closed sessions are “neither for revealing the truth by the Parliament, nor to inform people about what happened”. In response to that, Andrian Candu, the speaker of the Moldovan Parliament, declared that the Sandu’s request is an attempt to block the hearings, as she is aware that the analysed information is confidential.

Regarding the allegations that were made, Maia Sandu claimed that the only thing that was funded by the Open Dialog Foundation was a visit for an event in Brussels, having the European Parliament and the Open Dialog Foundation as the event’s organizers. Other than that, PAS never received any financial support from the Open Dialog Foundation.

Moreover, Ludmila Kozlovska denied in an interview for Jurnal TV that the Open Dialog Foundation has ever financed the opposition parties of Republic of Moldova. “It is a complete fabrication” she declared, “and it’s absurd that they consider me and my organisation a threat for Republic of Moldova”. She sees the act of organising a parliamentary commission as a desperate measure taken by DPM (Democratic Party of Moldova).

Open Dialog Foundation

The Open Dialog Foundation is involved at the moment in dealing with several cases of political prisoners from Russia, Republic of Moldova and Kazakhstan. After an analysis of the situation in Republic of Moldova, reports were sent to European Union institutions, and efforts were made on behalf of this institution for freezing the financial support from EU to Moldova. “In turn, Vladimir Plahotniuc started to denigrate the Open Dialog Foundation, this is how people had the opportunity to hear more often about it”, states Kozlovska.

What’s also important to be mentioned is that, according to the Newsmaker fact-check, the press release of the Parliament of Republic of Moldova contains several fake or misinterpreted information about Ludmila Kozlovska. For example, the press release text states that she was expatriated from Poland for being suspected of cooperation with Russian special forces. In reality, her entering in Belgium was banned on August 13, 2018 because Poland included her in the SIS (Schengen Information System) blacklist without stating any reason for that. About the so-called cooperation with the Russian special forces, wrote Marcin Rey, a polish blogger, and his article was mentioned as an “expert” source in the Moldovan Parliament press release.  Another fake information that was included in the press release and in the media, is that the Ukrainian Security Service blamed Ludmila Kozlovska in “betrayal of her homeland”, while she only appears as a witness in a court case.

Featured image source: zdg.md

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