Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 135

The Moldovan government does not recognize the officially announced results for Ukraine’s presidential election. In a November 26 declaration, Moldova’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted, “The November 21 balloting failed to meet the requirements and criteria for recognition of the returns by Ukraine’s citizens and by the international community. Moldova expresses deep concern . . . over the obvious violations of fundamental democratic norms and principles. In Moldova’s view, there is no basis for recognizing these returns of the election of a new head of state in Ukraine” (Moldpress, November 26).

Reacting to the Kremlin’s premature move to proclaim Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych as winner, the government daily Moldova Suverana editorialized, “If they ultimately ‘appoint’ Yanukovych as president, Moldova will find itself in difficulty, as Yanukovych is an ally of Putin and of [Trans-Dniester leader Igor] Smirnov against Moldova and against the West” (Basapress, November 24). Moreover, the Communist government, the right-of-center opposition, and civil-society are all apprehensively expecting Kremlin-connected political operatives to turn their attention to Moldova’s electoral campaign, once they complete the mission in Ukraine.

“After Ukraine We Shall Tackle Moldova,” (“O Moldovoi My Zaymyomsya Posle Ukrainy”), according to Russian political planners, cited under that headline by the pro-Moscow, pro-Tiraspol newspaper Kommersant Plyus in Chisinau. Accompanying the front-page story is a photograph of Chisinau mayor Serafim Urecheanu shaking hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting last summer (Kommersant Plyus, November 19). This newspaper propagandizes simultaneously for Smirnov and for Urecheanu, leader of the five-party Bloc Moldova Democrata (BMD), the three “centrist” components of which count on Moscow’s support for their electoral campaign.

Urecheanu has met with senior Kremlin officials several times in recent months. However, he has tried to keep most of those Moscow visits secret and acknowledged some of them only after the information leaked out. He denied having met with Putin and is now keeping silent on what looks like a calculated disclosure that he did. Capitalizing on President Vladimir Voronin’s open break with Russia, BMD’s centrist leaders hope to replace Voronin as Russia’s partners in Moldova.

Russia’s newly appointed ambassador to Moldova, Nikolai Ryabov, signaled during his inaugural press conference on November 24 that Moscow is considering getting involved in Moldova’s electoral campaign. While disclaiming any intention by Russian official authorities to do so in Moldova or “in any country,” Ryabov stated, “Russian political technologists [operatives] might offer consultations to certain political parties in Moldova. How to present themselves and for whom to perform this service is their business. We are free men in a free country,” Ryabov claimed (Infotag, November 24).

As former chairman of Russia’s Central Electoral Commission, Ryabov is an experienced election-manager. This background almost certainly contributed to the Kremlin’s decision to appoint him ambassador to Moldova, as the country now embarks on a parliamentary and presidential election campaign. A team of Moscow “political technologists” — some of them with long-standing ties to Tiraspol — recently worked for approximately six weeks in Chisinau, advising BMD’s three “centrist” factions on electoral strategy and tactics. The bloc’s two right-of-center factions objected to the Russian consultants’ involvement and helped blow the cover on their mission, which BMD’s centrist troika was trying to keep secret. Financed by Russia’s Presidential Administration, the team recommended creating an alliance of BMD centrists with hard-line Russian/”Russian-speaking” groups that are expected to defect from the Communist Party as a result of Voronin’s break with Russia (see EDM, November 10).

In a November 23 news conference, a November 24 clarification statement, and a November 28 rally in downtown Chisinau, BMD leaders equivocated on the situation in Ukraine. Urecheanu declared that the official election returns represented the voters’ choice, and that BMD would seek good relations with Ukrainian presidential contender. He argued that Moldovan-Ukrainian relations “mainly depend on Chisinau’s leadership showing goodwill” — thus placing the onus squarely on Moldova, as Urecheanu also does when criticizing official Chisinau for the impasse in Trans-Dniester. BMD’s clarification statement the next day added an expression of “regret over widespread fraud” and “concern over developments in Ukraine,” without taking a stand. Speakers at BMD’s street rally differed among themselves, with some expressing sympathy for Viktor Yushchenko, some criticizing his tactics, and most speakers asserting that Urecheanu could solve problems through negotiations with Russia, Ukraine, and Trans-Dniester (Flux, Basapress, November 24; Basapress, Moldpress, November 28).

Christian-Democratic People’s Party leader Iurie Rosca made public a “Dear Viktor” letter to Yushchenko, announcing that Moldova’s CDPP stands “shoulder-to-shoulder with the Our Ukraine bloc,” and recognizing Yushchenko as the “real winner of the election” and “legitimate president of Ukraine” (Flux, November 24).