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Moldova: Diplomatic Controversy Marks Russia Day

The Russian Federation celebrates its national holiday on June 12 (Russia Day). In Moldova, the official diplomatic celebrations preceding this day have sparked controversies [ro] that verge on a diplomatic scandal.

The media have reported that at the official reception organized on June 10 at the Russian Embassy in Moldova, Valeri Kuzmin, the Russian Ambassador [ru], gave floor [ro] to Vladimir Yastrebchak, presenting him as the official chief of the Transnistrian diplomacy. (Transnistria is a separatist region of Moldova, which broke away in 1990; it is not recognized by any UN member state. The Russian military forces and ammunitions are stationed on the Transnistrian territory against the will of the Moldovan authorities.)

Reacting to the Russian Ambassador’s gesture, the Moldovan diplomats left the reception; they were followed by diplomats representing the US and the EU missions.

Sign of disrespect

The Moldovan Prime Minister regards [ro] the Russian Ambassador’s action as an insult to the Moldovan people. He hopes it is a mistake, but will ask for explanations via diplomatic channels.

The leader of the Liberal Party, who is part of the ruling alliance in Moldova at the moment, suggested [ro] that the Russian Ambassador should leave the country, since the diplomat demonstrated his support for Transnistria, being thus disrespectful of Moldova’s independence. The Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs will not [ro] voice its position until next week.

Tensions are building up, especially since Moldova is undergoing the crucial local elections at the moment. In a week's time, the Moldovan capital will hold its final, second-round battle to elect the mayor of Chisinau (the current liberal mayor is competing against the Communist Party’s candidate).

The Russian Embassy in Moldova has given its own assessment [ru] of the first round of the local elections held on June 5, doubting the objectivity of the evaluation conducted by the OSCE international observers. A reply followed from the Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressing [ro] perplexity and regret over the Russian commentary.

The relations between Moldova and Russia have always been sensitive, as Moldova was under Russian oppression several times, culminating in the 50-year forced integration into the Soviet Union.

The Moldovan blogosphere had immediate reactions to the diplomatic incident.

Vadim Zgherea writes [ro] in his blog post entitled “Kuzmin on the black list”:

It is tragic to see with your own eyes how they make you stupid. It is tragic since we cannot take it anymore.

[…]

How does the Russian ambassador afford to speak such words here, where democracy has not yet unpacked its luggage? Thanks at least to the Moldovan, American and European diplomats for a dignified and prompt gesture, let the Russians be burning with shame.

Vitalie Vovc is proud of Moldova. In his blog Today I am Moldova, he writes [ro]:

Little does it matter what tomorrow will be. Little do the consequences matter! Finally, my country has reacted NORMALLY to an aberration! Tonight I have a small occasion to be proud! And I couldn’t care less of how naive I might look or how “unpragmatic” or childish my reaction is!

It will last probably till tomorrow morning… Because tomorrow other representatives will attenuate, will explain and comment…

Oleg Cristal was also proud of the Moldovan diplomacy on June 10. He describes [ro] an ironic scenario:

Soon [Tiraspol, the capital of the unrecognized Transnistria] will organize a military parade on the Stefan cel Mare boulevard in Chisinau [the main street in Moldova’s capital], and this will be led by the Russian Ambassador in Moldova. Moreover, the formula that the Russian Ambassador used to introduce Iastrebchak is a de jure recognition of the regime in Tiraspol. A new gesture of de jure recognition, since there have been such attitudes from Moscow before.

Oleg Cristal does not believe that the Russian Ambassador made a mistake:

If it was a mistake, soon we should see an apology from his side. But a diplomat with the experience like the Russian Ambassador in Moldova can NOT make such “mistakes.” Therefore, it was a message to Chisinau or even a provocation ahead of the second round of the elections in the capital and ahead of the informal consultations in the [5+2 format] scheduled to take place in Moscow on June 21. The deterioration of the Moldovan-Russian relations would come now to the advantage of the communist candidate for the position of the mayor of Chisinau, Igor Dodon. From this perspective, a possible reaction of the Moldovan authorities should be very well-balanced.

Andrei Fornea also finds the action of the Moldovan diplomacy commendable; however, he expresses [ro] some concerns as well:

This case could lead to divergences between Moldova and Russia on the background of an already very weak diplomatic relationship that occurred with the change of power in Chisinau and could lead to political embargos, the increase of gas price and other things that could make us kneel in front of Russia.

He ends with a message to the Russian Ambassador:

I only have this to tell him: GO HOME!

A similar message is expressed by another blogger. Eugeniu Luchianiuc posted a photo of Kuzmin with this statement:

Kuzmin, go home and drink Vodka!

On Pulbermax blog, the author is asking [ro]:

I'd like to know from what position the Russian Ambassador is making such statements… A KGB General? The Russian Ambassador? Or a companion lady of the Kremlin?

A critical reaction was articulated [ro] by Corneliu Gandrabur:

Kuzmin should leave the country, because he has breached the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, [art. 1, 2 and 3]. The direct attack on the territorial integrity as well as on the sovereignty is a grave infringement. Acting in his capacity of the ambassador, he has represented Russia’s interests and we can only say that this has been intentional and coordinated with the Kremlin.

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