What Is the Purpose of Sandu’s Incendiary Visit to Gagauzia?

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Another scandalous and seemingly ill-fated visit of the president to the autonomy may have had less explicit motives  
Semyon ALBU, RTA: Madame President, who after her scandalous visit to Gagauzia in autumn 2022 preferred to stay away from the unfriendly region, visited it twice in the last two weeks. Firstly, she attended the opening of the Vulcanesti-Chisinau power line for a cheap PR. Though, the joy of complicity to this infrastructural facility was overshadowed a bit by the protests, which forced a roundabout way to the venue. And yesterday she came to Comrat with a seemingly strange program. Predictably ignoring the opportunity to meet with the leadership of the autonomy, especially since the bashkan was not back from a business trip abroad, she gave a lecture on European integration to assigned students and met with a small group of loyal officials – mayors and councilors of three towns, as well as some PAG deputies. Truth be told, the PR managers from the president’s entourage have once again failed miserably. First of all, they unseemly manipulated the information about a visit, allegedly cancelling it but eventually making it happen, apparently to avoid crowds of disgruntled people. By the way, the plan failed. It is up to you to decide whether yesterday was a paid crowd or really the thinking public came out, but the fact is that they did gather to form an appropriate informational and emotional background. Next blunder is an attempt to create a comfortable emaciated atmosphere for the head of state. The mayor of Comrat thoughtfully forbade mass gatherings of people on that day, and invited the selected students to the university for a lecture, while advising them, as it turned out, to avoid sensitive political questions. Apparently, the Canal 5 case was taken into account. Only “insiders” were allowed to attend the meeting with Sandu. All this, of course, did not escape the public’s attention failing to bring her more favor in the autonomy. In addition, her trip coincided with the final of Evghenia Gutul’s visit to Russia, after which she announced a delicious “carrot” for Gagauz pensioners and state employees. Now any of them, who will make an application to the Russian Promsvyazbank, will receive two thousand lei on their accounts every month. As usual, it is not very clear how transfers from Russian to Moldovan cards should be conducted, but in theory it will be possible to cash the cards, for example, on the left bank of the Dniester. In addition, the topic of cheap gas was discussed again, which they will try to pedal once again. Against this background, when it comes to purely practical and useful things for people’s wallets, the president’s rantings about European integration, of course, look poor. The contrast between Sandu and Gutul was also rather interesting. While the former had to get to her venue bypassing the angry crowd and through a non-parade entrance, the latter was greeted with flowers by grateful people at the Chisinau airport yesterday. Again, I won’t try to judge who was genuine and who staged – that’s not particularly important, as it is just a media picture. However, despite all these failures, one should not think that Sandu’s trip to autonomy was reckless act of stupidity. She had enough hidden and clear motives. Let’s get to the bottom of this. Every day relations between official Chisinau and the Comrat officials are getting increasingly hostile. The center makes its moves, which are as lawless as they are sensitive. Of course, the VAT issue has been defended so far, but will it last? Besides, the budget of the autonomy has already suffered significant losses. Meanwhile, Gutul faces final criminal charges for “illegal financing of a political party”. And this is not only the threat of prison sentence, but also deprivation of the right to hold public office. The region also responds harshly, upping the ante. Gutul accuses the president of violating the constitution and the law on the special legal status of Gagauzia because she was not included in the government. Moreover, she says that the autonomy will declare independence in case of “unirea”, and in case of military aggression to appeal to everyone, including Russia. I do not know what motives drive the bashkan to make such high-profile statements, but they fit perfectly into the logic that the ruling regime is building around Gagauzia. As colleagues have already written many times, the goal of the “yellows” is to eliminate the autonomy, if not formally and legally, then in essence. For this purpose, an appropriate geopolitical myth is needed to justify to Western curators any excesses in relations with Comrat. In this sense, the victory of Ilan Sor’s protégé was a great gift for the regime. This made it possible to isolate Comrat politically, make it unreputable and cut it off from contacts with Western embassies and emissaries. Tiraspol, whose pro-Russian orientation after February 2022 significantly restricted its ability to appeal to the real masters of the country, is in the same situation. As we can see, now the left bank is being swiftly incorporated in the common legal field. This process is very annoying for Tiraspol, but no one cares much about its complaints, because it does not fit in the current conjuncture. Of greater importance is a change in the decades-long status quo on the region status, according to which this very status should be granted to the region following reintegration. Now, due to Chisinau actions, the idea is fading into oblivion. For example, last year instead of the name ‘Transnistria’ they agreed to use ‘Transnistrian region’. A trifle, as it might seem, but essentially it is changing the point. The same happens when Alaiba argues that there is no Gagauzia, but Comrat, Vlucanesti and other districts. Or when the deputies of the People’s Assembly are called “representatives” in the press release of the President’s Office. All these things seem symbolic at first glance, but they reflect the logic of the processes. The central authorities’ obvious tactics today is to sabotage the situation in Gagauzia by mobilizing a small group of local loyal activists and by bribing/ blackmailing some of the more of this is “decision-makers” to their side. As we can see from yesterday’s meeting at the university in Comrat, the range of such persons is not too big yet, but there’s more to come. We can already see some PAG deputies expressing thoughts that it would be good to “politically annul” the top of the autonomy and hold re-elections. Much more of this is ahead, especially after personal dialogue with the head of state. The strategic goal is to put an end to the Gagauz “hearth of separatism” once and for all. And in this respect, even Sandu’s not particularly successful visit is a good thing, because it will be used once again as a proof of the extent to which the autonomy is “contaminated” by Russian influence, which makes it hostile to the center, and, therefore, as a justification for harsh measures such as jailing the bashkan and depriving Gagauzia of certain status powers, which allegedly serve as a loophole for the “hybrid warfare of the Russian Federation”. After all, we shall not engage in a dialogue with “Kremlin agents”, right?