DISINFORMATION: The Republic of Moldova renounces Transnistria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint press conference with Yemeni prime minister (not pictured) in Moscow, Russia, 27 February 2024.
© EPA-EFE/MAXIM SHIPENKOV   |   Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint press conference with Yemeni prime minister (not pictured) in Moscow, Russia, 27 February 2024.

Disinformation

By organizing the referendum on EU integration, Chișinău renounces Transnistria, says the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov. He basically reiterates the thesis on the disintegration of the Republic of Moldova, promoted in Transnistria and Găgăuzia.

NEWS: The Moldovan authorities’ plans to hold a referendum on EU accession in the fall of 2024, without taking into account the opinion of the residents of Transnistria, means that Chișinău has decided to abandon the unrecognized republic, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Izvestia in an interview.

“[Moldova] refused numerous proposals both from Transnistrians themselves and from the Russian Federation to resume negotiations in the 5+2 format. Sandu stated that yes, we will hold a referendum on joining the EU without Transnistria. Probably, the Moldovan administration wants to unite with Romania as soon as possible, in order to get some additional opportunities as a result. And Chișinău is considering a military solution to the Transnistrian question. This would be a reckless decision for the leadership of the Republic of Moldova, and I think they should understand this, or it should be explained to them very clearly”, Lavrov said.

Reality

NARRATIVES: 1. The Republic of Moldova is moving closer to the EU, renouncing Transnistria. 2. The armed solution of the Transnistrian conflict is being prepared, in addition to a possible unification of the Republic of Moldova with Romania.

BACKGROUND: On December 24, the President of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, called on Parliament to organize a referendum on EU accession. The pro-presidential PAS majority amended the Electoral Code so that referendums are allowed to be held on the same day as the elections. Therefore, the referendum will most likely take place jointly with the presidential election scheduled for this fall.

The authorities’ plan to organize the referendum is contested by the opposition, which believes that it was designed to help Maia Sandu secure a new mandate and quickly became the target of propaganda and disinformation campaigns, some of which were dismantled by Veridica.

In recent months, Russian propaganda has also intensified a media campaign about Moldova allegedly making preparations with the support (or, in different versions of the narrative, at the behest) of the West and/or Ukraine for an attack on the separatist region of Transnistria.

Another narrative of the Russian and Transnistrian propaganda invokes an alleged plan by Romania to annex the territory of the Republic of Moldova, including the region on the left bank of the Dniester. The “imminent” unification of the Republic of Moldova with Romania (the annexation of the Republic of Moldova) is one of the main tactics used to scare part of the population, especially ethnic minorities. It is associated with one of the oldest Soviet anti-Romanian narratives, the one about the “Romanian gendarme” (who mistreated, tortured and ridiculed the local population), launched shortly after the Bessarabia’s union with Romania in 1918.

PURPOSE: To associate the European integration process of the Republic of Moldova with the renunciation of the Transnistrian separatist region – basically with the disintegration of the Republic of Moldova. To restore to the public agenda narratives about alleged preparations for the unification with Romania and Moldova’s participation in military operations, which induce fear among the majority of the population of the Republic of Moldova

WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: The authorities in Chișinău, but also in Brussels, are considering a possible accession to the EU in two stages, initially without the Transnistrian region, following the model of Cyprus, although the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova has never been subject to discussion.

The two-phase accession scenario was immediately commented by Russian propaganda as Chișinău’s attempt to give up Transnistria, and the separatist leader Vadim Krasnoselsky labeled it “a realistic approach”, adding in an interview to TASS that it is the right of “neighboring Moldova to decide whether or not it wants to join the EU, but no one can impose their point of view on Transnistria”. However, Krasnoselsky stated during a recent meeting with the Russian ambassador in Chișinău that the European integration of the Republic of Moldova has negative effects on the inhabitants of Transnistria.

Chișinău too denied the existence of so-called plans to attack the breakaway region and continues to argue in favor of identifying a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Sergei Lavrov's statements are in fact a carry-over of the Kremlin's policy of preventing the EU rapprochement and accession of ex-Soviet countries, which it considers its sphere of influence. This happened, for example, at the Vilnius summit of 2013, when Moscow put pressure on Kyiv so that the then-president, Viktor Yanukovych, backed out at the last minute from signing the EU Association Agreement, which led to street protests known as Euromaidan and Yanukovych fleeing to Russia, followed by pro-Europeans taking over power in Ukraine. Moscow then responded with the invasion and annexation of Crimea and started a separatist conflict in Donbass. Eight years later, on February 24, 2022, it invaded Ukraine on a full scale.

In the case of the Republic of Moldova, the breakaway region of Transnistria, backed by Moscow, is one of the Kremlin's main points of leverage which it uses to influence Chișinăuțs internal and external policy, including the European integration process. In addition, the Kremlin has always made direct or indirect threats regarding the recognition of the independence of Transnistria in order to foil Moldova’s attempts at leaving Russia’s sphere of influence.

In addition, Moscow also fuels separatist and anti-European tendencies in other regions of the Republic of Moldova, especially in the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Găgăuzia, which in 2014 hosted a referendum was organized, unrecognized by Chișinău and financed from obscure sources. Just like in Soviet times, 99% of the population voted for the accession of the Republic of Moldova to the Eurasian Union and the same percentage of people voted against European integration. Additionally, 99% opted for the independence of Găgăuzia in case the Republic of Moldova loses its statehood. A month and a half later, Moscow organized a referendum under somewhat similar circumstances in Crimea, in order to justify its annexation.

Although there are talks in certain circles, both in Chișinău and Bucharest, about a potential union of the Republic of Moldova with Romania, this topic has never been officially discussed by the political leaders of the two states; moreover, Romania was the first country to recognize the independence of the Republic of Moldova.

GRAIN OF TRUTH: The expected referendum on the EU accession of the Republic of Moldova will not take place on the left side of the Dniester, controlled by a separatist, pro-Russian regime, although most likely the inhabitants of this region will be able to vote.

OFFICIAL REACTIONS: Moldovan Parliament speaker and the leader of the ruling party, Igor Grosu, commented on Radio Moldova. “You still need to make preparations [in Transnistria] to hold a referendum. Imagine a territory home to an illegally stationed army, representatives of the secret services, weapons, targeted by Kremlin propaganda. We have to create the proper context allowing the media to get eyes on the ground and secure access to the citizens of Transnistria for political parties”, Grosu stated.

Tags: Republica Moldova , Russia , Transnistria , EU , the union of the Republic of Moldova with Romania
  • Publication / Media:
    iz.ru
  • Date of publication:
    29/03/2024
  • Target audience:
    Moldovans on both banks of the Dniester, Eurosceptics
  • Political affiliation:
    The Kremlin
  • Key narrative:
    The Republic of Moldova will is headed towards the EU by renouncing Transnistria
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