Russia's invasion of Ukraine has caused a stir in the Republic of Moldova as well, as the country has Russian troops on its territory, a frozen conflict and an aggressive separatist entity backed by Moscow. The scenario of an invasion is increasingly less likely, given the difficulties the Russian troops have encountered in Ukraine, which does not mean though that the risk of some of the challenges escalating is not there.
The big pro-Russia parties are cautious, while pocket parties are trying to take advantage
While at military level, as several US officials have recently stated, the Republic of Moldova is not a target for Russia, at least for now, the danger lies inside the city. Pro-Russian forces and provocateurs cannot wait indefinitely and are probing the ground.
So far, the leaders of the stronger pro-Russian forces in the Republic of Moldova - such as the Socialist Party or the Party of Communists - have limited themselves to just speaking against the Ukrainian refugees. This has been seen on pro-Russian television, which have presented the refugees in a negative light, with no mention of why they are on the territory of the Republic of Moldova, and little information about the war in Ukraine.
By the same logic, Gagauzia's Governor Irina Vlah called on the Chisinau authorities right after the invasion, on February 25, to stand aside, not to condemn Russia as an aggressor and “not to try to blame or justify any of the parties.”
The latest incident in this regard took place in Chisinau last week, when the leaders of two small parties, the pro-Russian party “Patriots of Moldova” and the public organization “Our Homeland – Moldova, made Russian propaganda in a press conference. The leaders of the two entities spoke in favor of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. They took over Moscow's narratives of a so-called special “denazification” operation of Ukraine.
The president of the “Patriots of Moldova” Party, Mikhail Garbuz, said that the West was to blame for Russia's invasion of Ukraine and that Russia was just fixing a wrongdoing committed in 2014 - the Euromaidan. Garbuz claimed that a “coup d’état aimed to oust the legally elected leadership of Ukraine” was staged in Ukraine in 2014.
“The Patriots of Moldova Party supports the special operation to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine. We are aware that this action is necessary not only for the security of Ukraine and Russia, but also for the security of the entire world. It is a measure to prevent the Third World War. We accuse the Anglo-Saxon world of destroying the fraternal Slavonic peoples. We blame the leadership of the Republic of Moldova of betraying the country's interests. They have turned into string puppets for the United States, and that could lead to the country losing its sovereignty”, Garbuz said.
At the same press conference, the president of the organization “Our Homeland – Moldova”, Artiom Guriev, voiced his outrage at the larger pro-Russian political forces in Chisinau not being vocal enough against Ukraine.
“This is proof that they have never been honest [Igor Dodon's PSRM]. They are afraid of responsibility. When it is profitable for them and there is no threat, the leaders of these parties have no problem cooperating with the same Russia and get funding from there. But when they smell danger, they are just hiding in their holes”, Guriev said.
Guriev also complained that in the Republic of Moldova Gagauz organizations did not want to participate in public demonstrations against Ukraine, because they felt intimidated by the Chisinau authorities.
Why Moldova should be stronger in combating fake news, disinformation and propaganda
Before Garbuz and Guriev, another pro-Russian politician in Chisinau, Aleksandr Kalinin, the leader of the “Party of Regions”, the same name the party of the former pro-Russian President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, had said in an interview for a Russian portal that he wanted Russia to continue its war in Ukraine over the “defeat of Nazism.”
Moreover, Kalinin took over the Russian narratives and stated that there were “bio labs” not only in Ukraine but also in the Republic of Moldova. He said that the Ukrainians had allegedly transferred their biological labs to the Republic of Moldova and the purpose of the visit to Chisinau, on March 6, by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was to take samples of bio weapons.
The fake news saraband continued. Kalinin also said that NATO was planning to deploy troops to the Republic of Moldova and that the Russians were not allowed to speak Russian in the Republic of Moldova, a move that came in line with the campaign on the alleged discrimination faced by Russians , launched by several Russian embassies.
Kalinin ran for president of the Republic of Moldova and also for an MP seat last summer, when he obtained a meager score, but he stood out through the scandals caused in the television sets where he was invited for debates.
While in the case of Sputnik and the former PPCD MP, Iurie Roșca, the Intelligence and Security Service (ISS) was quick to react, the same did not happen with the politicians mentioned earlier, although they have been known for a long time for their pro-Russia messages. Mihail Garbuz even proposed a referendum on the accession of the Republic of Moldova to the Russian Federation as a federal subject. Also, in April 2015, Garbuz got in the sights of the Intelligence Service of Ukraine for participating in the creation of the “People's Rada of Bessarabia”. That was a pro-Russian organization formed in Odessa, mostly by the minorities in the region, which campaigned for self-determination on the model of Luhansk and Donetsk.
Garbuz had previously participated, in 2014, along with other pro-Russian politicians, in setting up a controversial project called “Greater Moldova”, which also targeted the Romanian part of Moldova. This intention came to the attention of the special services on the eve of the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU, in the summer of 2014, and was part of the destabilization plans and other secessionist actions “of ethnic minorities in Comrat and Balti against the legitimate state authorities”. The case was then investigated and dismantled by the ISS.
Garbuz's record with regard to such actions does not end here. In 2011, together with the Russian Youth League of Moldova, he campaigned for the renunciation of the “Romanianized” names of the streets in Chisinau and their replacement with those used during the Soviet Union.
In an editorial written for Politico.eu, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that Russia should be punished much harder and proposed a 10-step plan to stop Moscow now. “What will we do if Putin gets to Chisinau next, the capital of Moldova? Or if he attacks Vilnius and Warsaw?” Mateusz Morawiecki rhetorically asked.
Therefore, it is necessary for the Moldovan authorities to act prophylactically when it comes to such destabilizing elements. Although at the moment they seem rather marginal, with little weight in the political equation, they can be the spark of bigger problems for the Republic of Moldova.
Supporters of “Rodina - Eurasian Union, Patriots of Moldova and the Russian Youth League protesting in front of the EU delegation building in Chisinau, Moldova, on November 20, 2013.