HAPPENING THIS WEEK
Greetings from Chişinău! Here’s what’s happening this week: Our feature story breaks down the latest in resignations and paid vacations from Moldova’s Prosecutor General’s Office – where those leaving office are collecting large amounts of severance pay on their way out the door. ZdG’s Executive Director Alina Radu doubts that a Moscow court is the best place to bring Vlad Plahotniuc to justice, while Politics Editor Petru Grozavu asks if we are seeing the the de-oligarchization or re-oligarchization of Moldova. Meanwhile, Editor-in-Chief Aneta Grosu wonders how one victim of Stalin’s deportations failed to receive compensation when the government is finally allocating more funds to the victims of political repressions. Our Foreign Brief includes the latest in international arrest warrants for Vlad Plahotniuc – who is now wanted in Russia – and Ilan Shor, who’s name is noticeably absent from Interpol’s site. Finally, we share the latest expert takes, investigations and our weekly roundup of news and analysis about Moldova from around the world, plus the events we’ve spotted this week. All of that and more in this week’s newsletter. Enjoying what you see? Then don’t forget to like our new English-language Facebook page for the latest updates from ZDG between newsletters. Happy reading!
THIS WEEK’S FEATURE
RESIGNATIONS, PAID VACATIONS: After the Democratic Party government was ousted in June, a number of prosecutors holding key leadership positions resigned or went on leave. The latest resignation came on August 6, when the Deputy Head of the Anti-Corruption Office, Adriana Bețișor, stepped down, drawing suspicion when she was released from her position that same day. But the controversies don’t end there, as a number of the prosecutors who resigned last month collected large amounts of severance pay on their way out – including sums up to one million lei (over €51,000). In this week’s feature, ZdG breaks down the latest resignations and paid vacations from the Moldovan Prosecutor General’s Office.
FROM THE EDITORS
MOSCOW JUSTICE: There is little expectation that oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc will be brought to justice in Moldova any time soon. But what will happen now that he’s a wanted man in Russia, too? A Moscow court has ordered Plahotniuc’s arrest, but is Russia’s compromised justice system really the right place to bring him to trial? “Courts that judge thousands of people detained in peaceful protests, condemning them within a few hours just because they were walking on the street, cannot judge a money-launderer properly,” says ZDG’s Executive Director Alina Radu.
HOUSE OF CARDS: On August 5, the Prosecutor General’s Office initiated criminal proceedings in response to the usurpation of state power that took place between June 7 and 14, under the former Democratic Party Government led by oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc. In the meantime, some of the forensic evidence related to the case has disappeared or been destroyed, while President Igor Dodon has been consolidating state power in his own hands. This leaves our Politics Editor Petru Grozavu asking: are we seeing the the de-oligarchization or re-oligarchization of Moldova?
VERA: Of the hundreds of thousands of deportees who suffered repressions in the Soviet Union under Stalin, only about 7,000 are believed to be alive in Moldova today. And although on August 7 the Government of Moldova decided to allocate over €120,000 to fund compensation for victims of political repressions, this year one of them has been forgotten. Vera’s family was deported to Siberia when she was a child and she carries those memories with her to this day. Each summer, she usually receives 500 lei (€25.25) as compensation for her suffering – but this year she got nothing. ZdG Editor in Chief Aneta Grosu wonders how this could have happened.
THE FOREIGN BRIEF
WANTED IN RUSSIA: A Moscow court has issued an arrest warrant for Moldovan oligarch and former Democratic Party leader Vlad Plahotniuc, who was recently overthrown when the pro-Russian Socialist Party sided against him to form a new coalition government in what some are calling an anti-oligarch uprising. Now, the Russian State Prosecutor has accused Plahotniuc – in his absence – of organizing a criminal group to steal over €508 million from Russia through currency manipulation and money laundering from 2013 to 2014. Russian investigators also claim that Plahotniuc is implicated in another criminal case concerning a transnational drug trafficking ring. In court, Plahtoniuc’s lawyer declared her client innocent.
SEARCH FOR SHOR: Moldovan authorities have issued an international arrest warrant for businessman and parliamentary deputy Ilan Shor, after he fled the country illegally in June. He has been accused of money laundering and fraud and the authorities claim that his name was included in a search using Interpol’s channels. So why isn’t he on the Interpol site’s wanted persons list? ZdG investigates.
20 YEARS OF PUTIN: Vladimir Putin has been in power in Russia for the last twenty years without interruption. Serving as Prime Minister and then President of Russia, he has been an influential force in Moldovan-Russian relations. And given the ongoing frozen conflict in the Transnistria region and the Kremlin’s ties to Moldova’s Socialist Party (not to mention President Igor Dodon) – he has been influential in Moldova’s domestic politics, as well. ZdG asks the experts what they think of Putin’s influence on Moldova and Moldovan-Russian relations during his two decades in power.
E.U.–MOLDOVA: According to the 2019 progress report, the Moldovan authorities have managed to carry out nearly fifty percent of the National Action Plan for implementing the E.U.–Moldova Association Agreement. This includes completing 63 of the total 129 planned actions, such as opening criminal cases in response to the multi-billion dollar bank fraud scheme of 2014 and actions in the fields of economic cooperation, social policy, industrial policy and advancing equal opportunity for men and women. Read the full report here.
PASSPORT CRACKDOWN: Moldova’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration has announced that former dignitaries will be deprived of their diplomatic passports. This comes in conjunction with the development of a list of persons who no longer hold diplomatic status. These measures are being taken in response to reports of the illegal use of special identity documents.
USURPING STATE POWER: On August 5, the General Prosecutor’s Office ordered the opening of a criminal case on the usurpation of state power that took place under the former Democratic Party government from June 7-14, 2019. Meanwhile, there is talk of waiving parliamentary immunity for certain deputies – but does this mean the criminal case stands a chance at bringing the usurpers to justice? ZdG asks the experts.
ACTION PLAN: The Government of Moldova unveiled its 2019-2020 Action Plan on August 6 and is now seeking public consultation. The project – developed based on the priorities of the Government’s Activity Program, as well as the provisions of the Moldova-E.U. Association Agreement and the Memorandum with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – outlines four main actions aimed at combating corruption. Read the full draft of the 2019-2020 Government Action Plan here.
SECURITY ZONE: The Moldovan Delegation to the Joint Control Commission has reported new violations to the security arrangements in the Transnistrian Security Zone. On July 31, Transnistrian force structures allegedly took provocative actions to stop what they claimed was illegal land cultivation. In doing so, they violated the Security Zone’s regime because the territory in question actually falls under the jurisdiction of Coșnița, the Moldovan Delegation said. This comes just days after the Moldovan Delegation to the Joint Control Commission requested a draft commitment to ensure all parties abstain from military actions, movement near the border or any other action that would disturb security in the demilitarized zone.
ARENA UPDATE: Moldova’s Ministry of the Economy is set to take over the monitoring of the contract for the construction of the Chișinău Arena from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research. The Democratic Party Government had signed a contract for the arena’s construction with the Turkish company Summa in 2018. But the Minister of the Economy says the contract will now have to be renegotiated due to concerns over the project being used as a pretense for land acquisition and fears that the country being unable to repay the €44.5 million Summa has invested in the project, risking the Turkish side taking over the land pledge.
MOLDOVA IN WORLD NEWS
JUSTICE REFORM: Under the recently ousted Democratic Party, oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc managed to “capture” the Moldovan State by paying off people in key institutions like the courts, the police and the media. And although the new governing coalition has taken a strong anti-corruption stance, a string of new appointments to top security and judiciary positions has critics accusing Moldova’s Socialist Party of attempts at politicizing the country’s state institutions. “A number of appointments to key security and judiciary posts in Moldova are raising questions about the new government’s commitment to depoliticize state institutions,” writes Madalin Necsutu for Balkan Insight.
“HYBRID” GOVERNMENT: Moldova’s governing coalition can best be understood as “a government for post-disaster recovery,” writes Vladimir Socor, in the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor. Read his latest analysis breaking down the make up, goals and prospects of Moldova’s ACUM Bloc–Socialist Party coalition here.
SWINE FEVER: According to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health, Moldova has reported several outbreaks of African swine fever in recent months. The disease is harmless to humans but incurable in pigs, leading to three pigs dying and another 10 being slaughtered, Moldova’s animal health authority reported. Bulgaria has also seen an outbreak of the disease, leading to large-scale culling on pig farms.
SPOTTED THIS WEEK
TRANSPARENCY: On August 6, Moldova’s Ministry of Finance launched a new online platform that allows anyone to access data on the state budget. This new tool, aimed at ensuring budget transparency, was made possible by the financial support of the USAID. “Transparency is more than just publishing information. Transparency means providing information in an accessible and easy to understand way, and the portal ensures this, taxpayers can see how their money is spent,” said U.S. Ambassador to Moldova, Dereck J. Hogan at the launch event.
MILITARY COOPERATION: A group of NATO experts led by the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Joint Command of Naples, Reinhard Kloss, arrived in Chişinău for a working visit on August 8. The purpose of the visit was to analyze the current stage of the Ministry of Defense’s cooperation with NATO and identify new directions for collaboration. The delegation met with Moldova’s Minister of Defense, Pavel Voicu, as well as representatives of the National Army Command Corps. On August 6, Moldova’s Defense Minister met with the People’s Republic of China’s Ambassador to Moldova, Zhang Yinghong, to discuss military cooperation – with a focus on military assistance provided by the Chinese side.
U.K. IN MOLDOVA: The U.K. Ambassador to Chişinău, Lucy Joyce, held three separate farewell visits with Moldova’s Prime Minister Maia Sandu, the country’s Minister of Health, Labour and Social Protection and the Gagauzian Bashkan, Irina Vlah. During each of these visits Ambassador Joyce reassured the Moldovan authorities of the U.K.’s continued plans to engage in supporting Moldova’s reform path.
Thank you for your continued interest! To keep up with our Moldova coverage throughout the week, you can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @ZiarulDe or check in at zdg.md/eng for our latest stories in English. More subscription options coming soon. Until next week!
– Daniela Bechet, Cristina Carmanu, Maksym Eristavi, Eilish Hart and others from the ZdG Newsroom. Created with support from the Russian Language News Exchange.