Tensions in Moldova: “Pro-European course seriously under threat”

Status: 03/28/2023 1:59 p.m

The pro-Western government in Chisinau is under pressure. There is growing concern that Russia, through disinformation and stoking domestic tensions, could divert Moldova from its European course.

By Stephan Laack, ARD Studio Moscow

The small town of Purcari in the southeast of the Republic of Moldova is only a few kilometers from the border with Ukraine. When war began in the neighboring country, the village was the first place of refuge for thousands of Ukrainian refugees.

Olga lives here with her family in a small house with a vegetable garden. Now that spring is here, she’s busy planting the beds. But Olga sits on packed suitcases.

“Of course the situation scares me,” she says. “We have one car in front of the door and one in the yard that’s packed with everything we need to be able to leave at any time. One bomb on Moldova is enough and the country is finished. We’ve been trying to build something here all our lives, but now everything is complicated.”

Horrendous energy prices leave little to live on

The consequences of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine are being felt across the country. Horrendous energy prices eat up two thirds of the average monthly income of 500 euros. Many have to save at every nook and corner.

Elena, who sells onions and garlic at the central market in the capital Chisinau, has hardly any customers. “Some only buy an onion here, half a kilo if it gets high,” Elena describes the situation. “Some just look – people have no money. And that’s really difficult.”

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Moscow wants to put pressure on the pro-Western government

In the fall of last year, the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom cut gas supplies drastically. This led to a rapid increase in energy prices. Although Moldova was able to develop alternative sources of supply relatively quickly, above all via Romania, prices remained high.

According to Moldovan energy expert Sergiu Tofilat, this is one of Russia’s attempts to put pressure on the pro-Western government in Chisinau. Putin’s agenda in Moldova is to undermine the government’s credibility. The message is that “you can get cheaper prices if you talk to Putin. But that’s not the way we should be doing things. Because we understand very well that Putin doesn’t offer anything for free.” Moldova’s independence is not for sale.

Goal: “New elections and a puppet regime”

Moscow is pursuing the goal of bringing about early elections in order to then install a puppet regime, Tofilat continued.

Almost simultaneously with Gazprom’s cuts in gas supplies, the party of pro-Russian oligarch Ilan Shor organized protests against the pro-European Pas party government. There is evidence that the demonstrators were paid. So far, however, it is unclear whether the money for this also came from Russia.

In the interview, Moldovan Defense Minister Anatolie Nosatii was extremely concerned: “Some – including countries like Russia – don’t like it when Moldova becomes a prosperous country. Oligarchs and criminals want to control Moldova and continue their business. That’s not in the interest of the people .”

That’s why they would try to destabilize the situation: “They pay a lot of money for this and bring people here to create a tense situation.” Another problem in this context is that pro-Russian oligarchs have deliberately spread disinformation via television and radio stations that they control.

Moldovan government ‘must deliver soon’

Nevertheless, Nosatii also knows that his government will ultimately be judged on whether it succeeds in improving people’s economic situation in the long term: “In order to help people to overcome the crisis, the state assumes a large part of the costs for winter Gas, heating and electricity. We have increased pensions and salaries. Of course, not everything is as it should be.” But it is much better than before.

In view of inflation of 30 percent and the insecurity of the population because of the war in Ukraine, the government in Chisinau is faced with enormous tasks. And it must deliver soon, otherwise the pro-European course would be seriously endangered, says Moldovan political scientist Ion Tabirta. The standard of living of the citizens urgently needs to improve.

“This is important if we want to reduce the number of anti-Europeans and skeptics,” said Tabirta. “The government must improve economic performance and the living standards of its citizens. Because Russia has supporters in the Russian-speaking milieu, among the ethnic minority and in the poorest sections of society.”

The local elections in Moldova in autumn will be an important mood test.

Tense situation in Moldova

Stephan Laack, ARD Moscow, currently Chisinau (Moldova), March 28, 2023 10:17 a.m

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