Expert: Unrest in Russia Caught the Moldovan Authorities Off Guard

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Against the background of dramatic events in Russia, our political elites have once again demonstrated their inability to react quickly to force majeure events and formulate Moldova’s own position on the external perimeter
Cristian Russu, RTA: Late on June 23, reports of an armed mutiny in Russia by the private military company Wagner stirred up the world media space. While the Moldovan authorities ignored them, the Internet community of our country kept abreast to the “revolutionary” events in Russia this weekend. The entire Moldovan audience followed the actions of Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group. After announcing the march against Moscow, he has become the main newsmaker, making the farmers’ protests seem like a childish prank. As in Russia, our audience split into those who supported and opposed the armed mutiny. Also, there were enough onlookers who get thrilled by such events. Images of columns of Wagner troops confidently sweeping away any barriers on their way, and of confused militaries at checkpoints left no doubt as to the severity of events. Timid attempts to stop the columns of Wagner soldiers with the help of building machinery suggested panic in the Kremlin and the shakiness of the entire state system. The bombing of Wagner’s vehicles, the shooting down of planes and helicopters over Russian cities evoked both fear and horror at the scale of events, or schadenfreude at the emerging civil war. While some of our ordinary citizens were simply worried about their loved ones in Russia, others were speculating about the real nature of the unfolding events. Was it Putin’s staging to intimidate the West, a risk-it-all act by Prigozhin, or a script from Washington? Alas, this time there were no live-streams with analysts, PAS MPs or anti-Russian flamers on the national TV. There was no prompt reaction from either the authorities or the security services, and no action to curb undesirable media content. The only noticeable thing was Internet slowdowns. The rapid course of events and the deadlocked silence of the controlled media and government representatives forced the Moldovan audience to seek answers from opinion leaders abroad. Fortunately, there were some. Ukrainian officials and those close to the authorities actively commented on the events. All reports, as expected, showed satisfaction with the internal armed confrontation in Russia involving loss of equipment and casualties. Many were convinced that the insurgency in Russia was in Ukraine’s national interest, while some called for seizing the moment to improve tactical positions. There were rumors about the plans of the Wagner Group to seize the nuclear arsenal in Borisoglebsk and the inability of the Russian authorities to control the situation. Ukrainian media featured even “apocalyptic” scenarios. Some provocations, such as calls to attack Transnistria while Russia is busy with the mutiny, concerned our country as well. Obviously, after such insinuations, our authorities should have woken up and come out with at least some kind of reassuring statement. However, the foreign ministry only advised citizens to refrain from travelling to the Russian regions near Ukraine. Only about three o’clock the government notified that the authorities “continue to closely follow events in the Russian Federation” and “are in constant dialogue” with international partners. By doing so, our leadership actually confirmed that, along with the population of the country, they are only observers in this situation, without the desire, possibility, or even the right to have an opinion on what is going on. Moreover, in their press releases, the authorities almost echoed the statement of the Romanian president. The only difference was the name of interlocutors with whom they contact. Bucharest used ‘allies’, while our press-release mentioned ‘partners’. It was only in the evening that our official position on the events in Russia was more or less clearly formulated, and it was simply another statement that there is no alternative to Moldova’s European path. In simple words, the head of the Foreign Ministry, Nicu Popescu, explained why “it is more important than ever to leave the Eurasian space of destruction and war” and remain united “regardless of political or geopolitical preferences, nationality and language of communication”. Such a peace-loving and unifying message from the government reminded of the 2019 slogans by Maia Sandu. At that time, too, there was much talk about giving up geopolitical speculation and the need to focus on the things that unite us. The country’s development and European integration coexisted peacefully with the continuing partnership relations with Russia. We all know very well what happened next, including PAS election promises. Moldova took its role in a new act of a play based on the geopolitical confrontation between the West and the East. By all appearances, the same thing will happen to the current message of the authorities about overcoming the split in society. This is evidenced by the real actions of dragging the republic into a full-scale and long-term military confrontation with Russia, where our country is destined to play the role of a small transit link. Just the day before at the Ukraine Recovery Conference, Nicu Popescu mentioned this confirming that our country is ready to become a kind of a hub for Ukraine.