Expert: Crackdown of Everything “pro-Russian” in Moldova Begins

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Sergiu CEBAN
Analyzing recent events in Moldova, one can draw an obvious conclusion: the authorities are preparing for a rupture with Moscow and are abandoning their old policy of balancing, because neither Western capitals nor, especially, Kyiv tolerate this anymore
Most experts, including those from our team, expected that Maia Sandu’s long foreign voyage, especially to the USA, would end with quite specific decisive measures. Although the President must have imagined her second anniversary in office quite differently, she was eventually forced to give the go-ahead to suspend the licenses of six television stations. The official explanation was “the need to protect the national information space and prevent disinformation by spreading false information or attempting to manipulate public opinion.” As a result, based on a list of individuals and legal entities subject to international sanctions, as well as numerous findings of the Broadcasting Council for lack of reliable information in covering internal events and the war in Ukraine, the Commission for Emergency decided to suspend broadcasting of the following media outlets: Primul în Moldova, RTR Moldova, Accent TV, NTV Moldova, TV 6, Orhei TV. Many have noticed that the ban has not only an internal effect, but an external one as well. On the same day, the European Union adopted the ninth package of sanctions against Russia, which includes restrictions on Russian television channels: NTV, NTV Mir, First Channel, Russia 1, and REN TV. Thus, Moldova, perhaps for the first time, openly synchronized with the next set of European sanctions against Moscow. For the Kremlin, such news on the eve of the weekend was clearly unexpected and unpleasant, so the reaction was predictably discontent. The revocation of licenses from Russian-language channels was regarded as an act of political censorship, and the Russian Foreign Ministry, in its traditional manner, demanded that international organizations evaluate the actions of our government. In principle, the fact that the Russian Ministry, despite all the circumstances of this year, continues to live in a reality of its own does not surprise or even humor anyone. I would hate to upset the Russian diplomats even more, but they are likely to have many more reasons for disappointment, especially after Moldova adopts an analogue of the Magnitsky Act. Its draft, recently submitted by the Justice Minister, provides for the imposition of sanctions at the initiative of the authorities, including against persons caught under sanctions in other states. But without waiting for the adoption of a new norm, the Commission on Emergency Situations along with a ban on TV channels decided to include more than two hundred Moldovan individuals and legal entities that will not be able to perform various types of operations – from bank transfers, sales of company shares and cession of rights to the alienation of immovable or movable property. The official arguments of the country’s leadership and government members for taking such radical measures do not look convincing. The Broadcasting Code and the current legislation in general contain a lot of tools that make it possible to effectively and quite legally curb the ardor of the opposition media. However, apparently, the authorities immediately resorted to a very swift and sharp blow that took all anti-systemic political forces down. It is clear that the decision by the Emergency Commission was primarily politically motivated rather than driven by the authorities’ concern for the information hygiene of the population. With the opposition deprived of the “communication” channels with the audience disgruntled by the incumbent government, the same Šor (who is in close touch with Plahotniuc) will not be able to mobilize anti-government forces. Thus, we can assume that the “crackdown” on media resources amid the waning protests, with winter coming, will reduce street activity even further bringing it to a minimum. TV sanctions have also affected channels affiliated with the socialist party, although the PSRM is very cautious so as not to provoke unnecessary irritation of the current authorities. However, such a blow to the party’s media has greatly agitated Igor Dodon, who has called Maia Sandu the “killer of Moldova” and accused her of destroying the economy, the interethnic balance and the opposition. But here we need to find out who is really the author of the current state of affairs in the country. It seems that the ex-president is in a hurry to absolve himself of all responsibility, which is not surprising for a bankrupt politician like Dodon. But if we are objective, we should first say that the current authorities came with their own project and vision of the country’s historical path, and will therefore follow it consistently, despite all the related difficulties and losses. As for Mr. Dodon, he should admit that he was, in fact, the last Moldovan leader to try to implement a post-Soviet statist project, which he himself failed miserably, with almost no possibility to revive that plan in the current circumstances. It seems that earlier, Sandu lacked the political will to make a decisive move against the pro-Russian opposition and the Kremlin, who were quite successful throughout the autumn in their plan to destabilize the internal political situation and increase vulnerability of the current regime. Yet, the necessary support from Washington was obtained, and now everything in Moldovan society and politics with any link to Moscow will be rigorously cleansed and neutralized. By the way, the President has already openly declared the intention of our security services to expel Russian agents of influence from the country, including those working under diplomatic cover, and to scrutinize Russian soft power projects under the prism of national security threats. Compounded by the unexpected revelations of the SIS head about Russia’s impending advance towards Moldova, the obvious conclusion is that the authorities are prepping to sever ties with Moscow and are giving up their former policy of balance, as this is no longer understood either in Western capitals or, especially, in Kyiv. For this reason, we can safely expect further high-profile measures against political projects and the Russian fifth column on the territory of Moldova. The life of those who do not and will not show solidarity with the policy of the current government in the near future will be much more complicated. Everyone predicted a hot autumn and in a sense expectations were justified, but now we are about to face a hot winter, which promises to be just as exciting and at the same time terrifying.