Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 135

On July 11-12 Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin paid an impromptu visit to Moscow for discussions with President Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials, his second to the Kremlin since becoming president in April. By all unofficial accounts, this visit was arranged between Voronin and Putin, at Voronin’s initiative, over the telephone, with only forty-eight hours notice. Voronin and the Moldovan government are withholding all information on the discussions in the Kremlin, and are tight-lipped about the president’s other meetings in Moscow.

Voronin held also talks with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and Patriarch Aleksy II. Luzhkov warmly congratulated Moldova’s Communist Party on what he described as a “well-deserved electoral victory.” Luzhkov, who is anything but a communist, readily fraternizes with communists in the former Soviet domain because of their pro-Russian convictions. In Voronin’s case, however, those convictions no longer seem as firm or unambiguous as they had before he became president.

Voronin remonstrated yet again with Aleksy II over the seizure of Moldova’s largest religious establishment–a theological seminary and a monastery, situated on the right bank of the Dniester–by left-bank Transdniester’s ecclesiastical and security authorities with Aleksy’s approval (see the Monitor, May 2; Fortnight in Review, May 11). A presidential communique stated that Aleksy would soon suggest a “wise solution,” but stopped short of specifying the patriarchal wisdom on this matter.

Russia’s Energy Minister Igor Yusupov took part in the Putin-Voronin discussions. Yusupov confirmed afterward that Voronin had requested a discount on the price of Russian gas to Moldova, and that the state-controlled Gazprom is now “considering the possibility of lowering the price.” Putin himself had held out that possibility before journalists before the two presidents went into their closed-door session. Moldova currently pays an exorbitant US$80 per thousand cubic meters. Gazprom has set that price, ostensibly, on the basis of Moldova’s arrears. Yusupov, however, intimated that a discount depends on Chisinau accepting “concrete proposals”–not further specified–that the Russian government just made. Meanwhile, Gazprom is taking no steps to redeem Transdniester’s arrears in excess of US$400 million, several times larger than those of the Chisinau-controlled right bank.