The Shor Party: Russia’s henchman in Moldova

Status: 03/30/2023 06:01 a.m

The Kremlin and convicted fraudster and oligarch Ilan Shor have a common enemy: the pro-Western Moldovan government. Now Shor’s party is trying to destabilize the situation in the country.

By Stephan Laack, ARD Studio Moscow

The stronghold of the Shor party of the Moldovan oligarch Ilan Shor is only about an hour’s drive from the capital Chisinau. Orhei is a town with about 20,000 inhabitants. Well-kept green areas, clean sidewalks – everything seems to be in order here.

For the needy there are social department stores where groceries are offered at reasonable prices. “Merishor” is the name of the necklace, which means little apple. But the name also points to Shor, who was mayor here from 2015 to 2019 and still has many supporters.

Mixed opinions from Shor

Svetlana, who is looking for a job in one of the Merishor shops, says she has a good opinion of Shor: “Because you can see what he has done for Orhei and the surrounding villages. You can see that he has something for the community changed good.” Shor even had an amusement park built outside the city and admission to “Orheiland” is free.

However, Mihai, who works as a medical technician in Orhei, points out that Shor is a controversial figure. “My mother and my aunt admire the Shor Party, as do many teachers. I don’t really know myself, I’m a bit skeptical.”

Ilan Shor was involved in Moldova’s largest bank fraud case, was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison and fled to Israel. His party is now organizing anti-government protests in Chisinau.

Image: Privesc.Eu Moldova

Escape from billion dollar fraud

Indeed, the oligarch was involved in Moldova’s biggest bank fraud case. The damage to the country’s three largest commercial banks was approximately $1 billion. In the end, the National Bank had to step in and save Moldova from a bank collapse.

“Shor is the organizer of the theft of a billion dollars. And that’s why each of us, whether old or young, has to pay 500 euros to pay off the debt caused by Mr. Shor,” explains Sergiu Tofilat, former adviser to President Maia Sandu .

Only the pro-European government under Sandu finally made it possible to prosecute Shor. The oligarch was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison and fled to Israel. He had previously been under the protection of another oligarch, Vladimir Plahotniuc, who controlled political power in the country until 2019.

Government as common enemy of Shor and Putin

Now Shor is organizing the protests against the pro-European government from exile together with his remaining party friends in Orhei. The demonstrations began as Russia cut gas supplies to Moldova, driving up energy prices and inflation.

“We could see that the interests of Ilan Shor, who wanted to escape justice, coincided with Russia’s interest in destabilizing the country and dissuading Moldova from pursuing a pro-European course,” explains Moldovan investigative journalist Daniela Calmish.

Together with three colleagues from the “Ziarul de Garda” newspaper, she managed to prove that the so-called protests were staged by the Shor party. In Orhei, participants were specifically recruited and paid for this.

Staged protests

She managed to get infiltrated there in an undercover operation. They were taken by bus from Orhei to the capital Chisinau and received $20 for it. During the journey, they were told not to speak to journalists under any circumstances.

“They also told us what slogans to shout,” says Calmish. “And then when we protested in Chisinau, organizers sometimes came and told us to shout ‘Down with Maia Sandu’ louder. ‘What are we paying you for?'”

Orhei Mayor Pavel Verejanu downplays the payments. He is also a member of the Shor party and has good contacts with the fugitive oligarch. Shor admitted the payments, but the money was intended to provide for the demonstrators. “For a slice of pizza and two bottles of water.” Shor said “he didn’t want to send anyone out who would die of hunger and thirst,” Verejanu said.

“Shor takes advantage of difficult economic situation”

Moldovan political scientist Ion Tabirta sees the paid protests as a dangerous game. The Shor party is ultimately acting in Russia’s interests and is exploiting the difficult economic situation of the people to do so.

“Russia is trying to find ways to destabilize the social and political situation in Moldova,” says Tabirta. “And the pro-Russian forces can be found in the Shor party in particular.” It is an oligarch-led, opportunist party that wants to stop reforms and whose interests coincide with those of Russia.

If the economic situation of people suffering from high inflation of 30 percent does not noticeably improve, this plan could possibly work. Because even opponents of the Shor party could join the protests despite all concerns about the oligarch.

Just like Nikolaj, who says: “The protests that are taking place now should have started earlier.” He doesn’t support Shor at all – but what he does is still right. “Everyone is fed up with this government. Let’s pray to God that we get rid of it.”

The Shor Party as Russia’s henchman in Moldova

Stephan Laack, ARD Moscow, 29.3.2023 6:20 p.m

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