Thursday, September 10, 2015

Moscow Mulls Mobilizing Transdniestria and Gagauzia against Pro-Europe Activists in Chisinau

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 10 – An article in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta” highlighting opposition by Transdniestria and Gagauzia to the pro-EU protests in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau is another indication that some in Moscow are hoping to use these two groups in the north and south of that country to block any further Moldovan moves toward Europe.

            The Moscow paper’s Svetlana Gamova writes most of those taking part in the demonstrations in Chisinau are “oriented toward the integration of the country in the European Union” while many in the Slavic-majority Transdniestria in the north and the Christian Turkic Gagauzia in the south favor integration with Russia (

            Dmitry Konstantinov, the speaker of the Gagauz autonomy Popular Assembly, told her that the Gagauz are offended by the appearance of Romanian flags among the Chisinau demonstrators. “Our own path,” he said, “is to the East.” If Chisinau continues in a Western direction, Gagauzia will seek “a civilized divorce” from Moldova.

            The Gagauz parliamentary leader added that he and his colleagues are making contact with Moldovan politicians who share their opposition to a turn toward Europe and are prepared to act on it. Gamova for her part says that the 1994 Moldovan law setting up the Gagauz autonomy “gives the Gagauz the right to self-determination if Moldova changes its status.”

            That is somewhat disingenuous, of course, although it may reflect current Moscow thinking. The Moldovan act does not say that Gagauzia can choose to leave Moldova if it changes its foreign policy direction but allows that only if Moldova changes its borders by becoming part of Romania or in some other way.

            Also opposed to what is going on in Chisinau, Gamova writes, is the “unrecognized republic of Transdniestria” in Moldova’s north. Its leader, Yevgeny Shevchuk, has declared that as a result of the Chisinau demonstrations, “the situation is destabilizing and Tiraspol insists on its right to a civilized divorce from Moldova.”

            Last weekend as many as 100,000 people came into the streets of the Moldovan capital, the largest protest since the early 1990s, to demand a change in the government and immediate parliamentary elections.  The protest continues with protesters camped on in some 150 tents in the main square of the city, fed and otherwise supported by residents of the capital.

            Many but far from all of the demonstrators were and are pro-European, Arkady Barbaroshie, the director of Chisinau’s Institute of Public Politics, says. Many are simply disappointed with the current government, including some ethnic Russians and other Russian speakers.

            Many of the participants are calling on the organizers of the protests, the Civic Platform Dignity and Truth, to form a political party to compete in new elections. Its leadership supports integration with the EU and is consulting about its further moves with “ambassadors of ‘civilized countries,’” that is, Western ones, Gamova writes.

            After those meetings, one of the leaders of the group told the crowd that the EU is calling on the Moldovan authorities to enter into dialogue with the protesters, another step that undoubtedly is setting off alarm bells in Moscow and leading officials there to consider how they might stop what they undoubtedly see as another “color” revolution in the offing.

            So far, Gamova writes, the demonstrators have advanced the following demands: “the resignation of the president, head of parliament and prime minister, the holding of immediate elections for parliament, direct election of the president, the formation of a government of national salvation, the retirement of the head of Teleradio-Moldova and of the law enforcement organs, and bringing to justice those officials who are guilty of corruption.

            In addition, she says, “the activists called upon the West not to give new loans to the existing authorities and to declare them persona non grate in the EU and the US.” If the authorities do not meet their demands, the protesters said their next step would be to declare a general strike.

            Moldova’s prime minister, Vladimir Strelets, said he was ready to meet with the protesters and to offer “’a road map’” for overcoming the crisis but suggested that outside forces were behind efforts to force the government from office. “On its own initiative,” he said, “the government will not go into retirement. That would be an act of cowardice and irresponsibility.”

            President Nicolae Timofti also said he would not resign because he is “convinced that such a decision would bring instability to the Republic of Moldova. The vacuum of power would cause a new political crisis” that would be used by internal and external “forces” against the Moldovan people.

            “I recognize,” he declared, “that my positions for Europe, for NATO and regarding the illegal creation on our territory of a Russian military base have made me into a target for revanchist, neo-Soviet, anti-Western and anti-national forces.”  But such attacks will not turn him from his European path.

            To judge from Gamova’s article, some in Moscow must be thinking that they could only gain if they set Transdniestria and Gagauzia against him.

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