May 19, 2015

Who and How Will Be Punished by the Kremlin: It Is — Moldova's Turn

Even on festive-commemorative days, Moscow cannot abandon its usual policy of intimidation of “unfriendly” countries. To the role of “another victim” can be assigned both, the far-away Montenegro and post-Soviet Moldova, or the “allied” Belarus and Kazakhstan, or even Kyrgyzstan. The reasons for this, according to some in the Kremlin, are plenty.

For example, as stated by the Ambassador of the Russian Federation in Montenegro Andrei Nesterenko, Moscow will not leave without a “response” decision of the authorities of Montenegro to join the sanctions against Russia, to supply Ukraine with weapons and “not to cooperate” in business. And the refusal of the President of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic to participate in the parade devoted to the Victory Day over the Nazis in the Red Square.

There are “Ukrainian scenarios” for Kazakhstan and Moldova, aimed at North Kazakhstan, Trans-Dniester, Gagauz and Northern regions with rebellious “capitals” in Petropavlovsk, Tiraspol, Comrat and Beltsy. There are and are being created new preconditions for holding “on a short leash” the Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko and President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev.

Who is next after the Crimea?

Who is next after the Crimea?

Based on the above-mentioned, “Borysfen Intel” offers a series of analyzes of some countries taking into consideration the emerging external and internal threats to their statehood, social, political and economic stability.

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There are “Ukrainian scenarios” for Kazakhstan and Moldova

Let's start with the neighboring Republic of Moldova (RM), which has taken a high pace of European integration, and, until recently, was even ahead of Ukraine on the whole package of issues relating to convergence with the European Union, but which lately has significantly slowed down on the European path not without the “help of friends”.

The peculiarity of the situation in Moldova this year has become intense increase in risks to internal stability against the background of a significant reduction in the level of the population's support for the country's pro-European forces. Thus, the April survey conducted by the Centre for Sociological Investigations and Marketing “CBS-AXA”, demonstrated that the parties of the ruling minority coalition have significantly lowered their ranking positions (the Liberal Democrat — from 14 % to 7 %, and the Democratic — from 11 % to 5 %, compared with the November 2014). The survey also showed the growing popularity among Moldovan electorate of pro-Russian forces and Eurasian vector of development of the country. For example, Moldova's accession to the Eurasian Economic Union is supported by 57.8 % of the population, while the accession to the European Union — by 32.1 %.

According to leading analysts, the main reason for such transformations is both, internal (deterioration of social standards of the quality of life of citizens, the government's failures in economic and, especially, in anti-corruption policy) and external factors (foreign support for anti-government political forces and centrifugal movements in the South, North and Trans-Dniester regions, encouraging protests).

Moldova's accession to the Eurasian Economic Union is supported by 57.8 % of the population

According to IMF's estimates, in 2015 the economy of the Republic of Moldova is threatened by a recession at 1 % of GDP (according to alternative estimates — at 2 % of GDP). It is assumed that in Moldova, due to the economic crisis in the Russian Federation and Ukraine, exports, remittances and investment flows will decrease. At the same time, the banking and corporate imbalances, which emerged as a result of devaluation of the national currency, will negatively affect the financial stability of the Republic of Moldova. And the signing of a new Memorandum with Moldova has been postponed indefinitely, since the IMF's Mission has serious comments on the budget planning of the Moldovan Government in 2015 (it is possible that the budget deficit will increase to 50-70 %, and the government has not clearly defined its future strategy, first of all, to stabilize the situation in the financial-banking sector).

In such a situation, it is difficult for the government to limit the influence of the economic crisis on the quality of life of ordinary citizens. Consequently — the number of Moldovan citizens dissatisfied with the economy has risen to 63 % (compared to 27 % in November 2014). In particular, 85 % consider themselves poor (for 42 % the income of their family cannot provide even the basic needs coverage, for 43 % — the monthly income is enough only for the purchase of essential goods).

Withdrawal from the country about € 1 billion

Corruption scandals have reduced the confidence of our European partners

Perhaps the most important role in the deepening of the crisis in the Moldovan economy has played the situation arising from the withdrawal from the country of 13 billion Moldovan lei (about € 1 billion) — the assets of the three largest banks, for which the National Bank of Moldova at the time introduced a special administration (“Banca de Economii”, “Banca Socială” and “Unibank”). This deal with the assets in the first quarter of 2015 has significantly devalued the national currency. The ruling coalition and Parliament's indulgent attitude to the organizers of offshore schemes has enabled the pro-Russian forces to significantly enhance the anti-government advocacy campaign, the main theme of which was accusing the authorities of using “oligarchization” of the country to the benefit of certain business-elites (first of all of those headed by V. Plahotnyuk, V. Filatov, V. Voronin).

Corruption scandals have reduced the confidence of our European partners in the policy of the government of Moldova and questioned the possibility of Chisinau's getting in 2015 of a significant financial assistance to stabilize the economic situation in the country. At the institutions of the European Union and individual member states often can be heard talks of double standards in the work of the new ruling coalition, more and more flirting with Moscow in order to maintain its political and economic positions. European officials and experts even say that the Government of the Republic of Moldova and its head have no real power, and just perform conflicting instructions of some politicians using the state's government for getting commercial profit through the introduction of opaque, sometimes even criminal schemes.

Igor Dodon, PRSMThe current situation, as well as preparation for conducting local elections in June 2015, and the fixed in the above mentioned CBS-AXA's study readiness of the population to participate in radical forms of protest, are planned to be used to their own advantage by the working for the Kremlin's ends pro-Russian political forces, especially the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PRSM, is the leader of electoral support at the level of 16 %).

Trying to remove from power the pro-European government of the Republic of Moldova, the leader of the PRSM I. Dodon is looking for allies in the political establishment and in the regions. In particular, he is actively negotiating with the leader of the “Our Party” R. Usatyi (now living in the Russian Federation), during which are being discussed the common tactics at the local elections and the division of spheres of influence: “SP” — the primaria of Chisinau, “Our Party” — the primaria of Beltsy.

Irina VlahThe Gagauzia's leader's I. Vlah's (on the eve of her inauguration she joined the PRSM) victory at the elections of March 22, 2015 also adds to the growth of the PRSM's leadership's influence on internal processes in Moldova. The Socialists are now planning to provide the new bashkan the needed expert assistance in the formation of the local budget and lobbying the Russian Federation's financial support to the region. In sight of the experts, there are the Head of Gagauzia's relations in the political-criminal environment. For example, the brother of her ex-husband F. Gagauz is the leader of the pro-Russian public movement “United Gagauzia” and is engaged in the smuggling local wines and wine materials to Russia, using powerful relations among Russian high-ranking officials and crime bosses; the newly elected bashkan's brother S. Vlah (a former member of “Vanya Reniyskyi's” organized criminal group, specialized in knocking out the money, theft of vehicles on the territory of Ukraine and contract killings) has switched to grain trade, providing grain exports from the region to the Middle East via the port of Giurgiulesti (Moldova). It is clear that thanks to such “relatives”, Moscow has the ability to influence I. Vlah.

Iurie Leancă, EPPMThe Kremlin's political strategists also have oriented the pro-Russian forces in Moldova to receive additional electoral dividends in local elections, using the competition between pro-European parties, including the created by former Prime Minister I. Leanca political project — “European People's Party of Moldova” (EPPM). It is expected that by the results of the local elections the EPPM would draw over to its side some of the pro-European electorate of Moldova, and in case of implementation in Moldova in the medium term of the scenario for early parliamentary elections, will receive enough votes to enter the political establishment of the Republic of Moldova, thus dissolving the pro-European forces.

Trans-Dniester region

Trans-Dniester region

However, it is clear that the Kremlin dreams of not of just a victory of pro-Russian parties in the local elections in Moldova. Its main goal is to block the movement of the official Chisinau along the European integration path, drawing it into the Kremlin's Eurasian integration projects. And in case, if this can't be achieved — to disintegrate Moldova, turning it into a factor of instability on the border with the EU and NATO.

The Kremlin and its security services are trying to synchronize in Ukraine and Moldova various separatist movements

The written in the Presidential Administration of the RF step-by-step scenario provides for isolation of “pro-European” central regions of Moldova from Chisinau's key partners — Romania and Ukraine through pro-Russian forces' achieving electoral success (like voting in Gagauzia) by the results of local elections in the southern and northern regions of Moldova.

The Kremlin and its security services are trying to synchronize in Ukraine and Moldova various separatist movements in the form of creation of the so-called “Bessarabia”, or reanimation of “Budzhatska republic”. At this, it is obvious that Moscow controls the processes of “autonomization of the Bulgarian society” in Taraklia district of Moldova (the initiative of the “Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova”, supported by the PRSM and “Democratic Party”) and Odesa region of Ukraine (Bolhrad, Reni and Izmail districts).

As usual, the Kremlin puppeteers give a special role to Tiraspol where in October and November 2015 will be held regional parliamentary and local elections.

“TMR” is trying to shift the main responsibility for the social and economic crisis to Ukraine and Moldova

In particular, the leadership of the so-called “TMR” is trying to shift the main responsibility for the social and economic crisis in the region to Ukraine and Moldova, which allegedly have blocked the foreign economic activity of Trans-Dniester. To this end, local authorities and “KGB of TMR” use tactics of strengthening the information-propaganda campaign in the “TMR”, with the help of which they accuse Ukraine of destabilizing the situation in the Trans-Dniester region, and form the public attitude to the official Kyiv as a “foreign enemy”.

Chiril Gaburici and Yevgeny ShevchukThe initiated by the Kremlin tactic of splitting the Moldovan pro-European elite is clearly seen in Tiraspol's relations with Chisinau. In particular, the leader of the region Ye. Shevchuk relies on separate talks with Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova K. Gaburici, the supposedly unbiased counterpart in the negotiations on resolving the Trans-Dniester issue. This situation is similar to the one in 2012, when the head of the “TMR” improved relations with the then Moldovan Prime Minister V. Filat, while ignoring the contacts with other members of the leadership of Moldova, including the President M. Timofti. Based on the experience of cooperation with the current Prime Minister of Moldova V. Filat, the administration of the Trans-Dniester region hopes that he will bring to reason the ambitions of his partners in the government coalition, and of the radical pro-Romanian political cell in the Parliament and Government of the Republic of Moldova, which traditionally characterize the reintegration measures as groundless concessions to the Trans-Dniester regime.

Although Moscow is obviously slow with giving financial assistance to the “TMR”, but at this it is ready to ignore the openly corruption component in Ye. Shevchuk's “anti-crisis” measures (introduction of additional customs duties on the main commodity groups and artificial administrative barriers for importers, particularly, for holding “Sheriff”, formation of offshore schemes by the new Director of the Moldavian Metallurgical Plant T. Baytaziev, close to the head of the region) and the increase in the region's debt for the used Russian natural gas (the formal debtor is considered to be Moldova). At the same time the Kremlin does not mind the creation of a counterweight to Ye. Shevchuk in the form of another “opposition” (and more pro-Russian) political business group, headed by Minister of Internal Affairs H. Kuzmichev.

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Russia breaks international obligations on the settlement of the Trans-Dniester conflict

Threats to Moldova

Threats to Moldova

So, maintaining its dominant influence on Tiraspol, Moscow has all the necessary levers to block the negotiations on the Trans-Dniester settlement. At this Russia, declaring support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova, breaks its international obligations on the settlement of the Trans-Dniester conflict, trying to persuade foreign counterparts, that it is not interested in its military presence in “TMR” and is supposedly impartial and objective regarding the Trans-Dniester crisis.

The Russians are coming!The Kremlin' reducing its economic support for Trans-Dniester regime, while sponsoring the “Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova”, as well as using mainly constructive approaches within the framework of coordination with Moldovan authorities of the new price parameters of Russian natural gas in the 2nd quarter of 2015 (the price of natural gas has been lowered to 252.2 per thousand cubic meters) indicate that the Russian side is interested in motivation of the so-called “Oligarchic component” of the parliamentary body of pro-European parties and the “Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova” for the sake of loyalty or support for individual I. Dodon's pro-Russian initiatives.

Any protest movements in Moldova (under the banner of the impoverishment of the population and changes in Chisinau's foreign policy vector to Eurasian one) will be used by Moscow as a propaganda tool for further activation of destabilizing the situation not only in Moldova, but also in southern regions of Ukraine.