Moldova: Vladimir Plahotniuc, the country’s main nominally pro-European oligarch
12 December, 2016
The election of the pro-Russian socialist Igor Dodon as Moldova’s new president obscures the fact that Vladimir Plahotniuc, the country’s main nominally pro-European oligarch won most from the outcome.Throughout the whole of last year and the first half of 2016, the small, poor republic was shaken by anti-government protests in which tens of thousands of angered citizens took to the streets. The catalyst for the protests was that $1 billion had been syphoned out of three Moldovan banks, seemingly with the connivance of high-level officials.
An apparent paradox of the protests was that people flew European Union flags while demanding the resignation of a pro-European government. But a broad coalition of forces supported the protests, including both the pro-Russian Dodon and the pro-European Sandu.
Throughout its post-independence history, Moldova has fractured on East-West lines, so this union of different forces was unprecedented. Opposition politicians of different allegiances put away their party flags and selected white chrysanthemums as the neutral symbol of the protests.
They were united by an anti-corruption agenda and by a common enemy—the oligarch, Deputy Chairman of the ruling Democratic party Vladimir Plahotniuc. Despite not holding the highest office, Plahotniuc was well known to control the government, the parliament, and the largest media conglomerate in the country.
Moldova’s Constitutional Court had frequently made rulings in Plahotniuc’s favor, and on March 4 this court put an end to the short-lived protest movement. One Friday evening, it decided to repeal the amendment to the Moldovan constitution, enacted in 2000, under which the head of state, the president, has limited powers and is elected by parliament. As the current president, Nicolae Timofti, was set to leave office in March, the court effectively fired the starting gun for the next presidential election.
[June 20 interoperability of Moldovan forces proceeds ]
According to LTC Tudor Martea, Commander of Special Forces Battalion “Fulger”, the exercises included 4 modules of training: advanced firing techniques, close quarters combat, artillery fire call, and a field training exercise.
LTC Martea mentioned that within the exercise, over 80 service members were trained by their American colleagues to carry out different missions. Also, they carried out shooting drills with heavy and light infantry weapons of National and US Armies.
June 7, 2016 WARSAW, Poland — Poland has kicked off its joint multinational exercise with heavy US Army participation in order to test readiness and interoperability using 31,000 soldiers from 24 countries, 100 aircraft, 12 vessels and 3,000 vehicles.
[October 8 2015 nuclear smuggling
The United States and Moldova have been working together for years to counter nuclear smuggling, said Eric Lund, spokesman for the Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation.
• In July 2010, police seized 1.8 kilograms of Uranium 238, known as yellowcake, in a garage in Moldova’s capital, Chisinau. The uranium was worth €9 million ($10.1 million at today’s rates), but the suspects had tried to sell the uranium for €5 million ($5.6 million). Seven people were arrested, including two officers of the former Soviet army.
At the time, Moldova said it wasn’t sure where the uranium came from.
• In 2011, seven people were caught trying to sell 1 kilogram of Uranium 235 that had come from Moldova’s separatist Transnistria region. The suspects had sold a sample to undercover investigators. One of the suspects escaped, though others were arrested. A year later, an appellate court in Chisinau freed three and sentenced the rest to three to five years in jail.
When uranium is mined, it is 99.3% Uranium 238 and 0.7% Uranium 235, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says.
Nuclear reactors must have a higher concentration of Uranium 235 than naturally exists in the mined material, so the U 235 isotope is enriched to about 5%, the commission says.
• In February 2015, authorities arrested two Moldovans in the capital on suspicion of trying to sell a half kilogram of radioactive Caesium 135. The arrest came after the suspects sold a sample of 83 grams for €100,000 ($112,440).
Moldovan authorities cooperated with the FBI in all three investigations, Balan said.
[August 10 Moldova: bank failures prompt IMF visit]
An IMF mission was now expected to visit from September 21 to look at prospects for a new support program after bamk failures.
Fraudsters in Moldova in November 2014 pulled off a $1 billion bank theft, led in turn to the bankruptcy of the country’s three major banks, a currency crisis, and a sharp economic slump. The mechanisms used for shifting the funds from BEM and Banca de Sociala – in particular the tell-tale use of Scottish shell companies established at the same addresses – repeat the mechanisms used in previous corporate raids and major money-laundering schemes in Moldova. This suggests that at least the engineers of the scheme were high-placed Moldovan insiders. But why would high-placed insiders implement such a scheme for the benefit of an outsider such as 28-year-old businessman Ilan Shor ? Or is Shor rather a proxy or fall guy for them?
The Scottish shell companies involved, Manitoba Management Limited, was registered at the 41 Duke Street address; another two companies, Dixon Corporation and Ayden Management Limited, were registered at 69 Brunswick Street and 71 Brunswick Street, respectively. Fortuna Limited and Novland Limited, were registered at the 18/2 Royston Mains Street address.
[May 21 Moldova at Riga EU meeting tempted by Russia]
While the European market is much bigger and richer than Russia’s, Mr. Putin imposed tight trade restrictions in 2013 on Moldova in retaliation for its flirtation with the West. For now, exports to Europe have not yet risen enough to make up for what was lost in Russia
Apr 21, 2015 “Wind Spring 15” – NATO military exercise in Romania, near the Moldovan and Ukrainian border
“Wind Spring 15” – Over 2.000 military and 500 army vehicles, of which 400 tanks and armored vehicles, involved in a NATO military exercise in Romania, at the Smardan firining range in Galati county, near the Moldovan and Ukrainian border.
[March 21 Russia warns against U.S. military maneuver, convoy of 120 U.S. Army Strykers departs Estonia]
A “Dragoon Ride” will take 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, troops from training locations in Estonia, Lithuania and Poland and convoy them through Latvia and the Czech Republic to Vilseck.The US Army squadron wrapping several months of training with allies in Poland will take its Strykers through the Baltics March 21 through April 1, stopping in a new community each night. The vehicles are part of an armored brigade’s worth of equipment the Army plans to station in Europe. The U.S. military maneuver, set to begin March 21, will involve a convoy of 120 U.S. Army Strykers. Over ten days, the eight-wheel-drive combat vehicles will stop in a different border area community each night to showcase the ability of U.S. forces to transport troops quickly, and to assure Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland of NATO’s commitment.
Such an exercise, Russia’s foreign ministry said March 20, undermines the Russia-NATO Founding Act. “According to our estimates, in case of the deployment of U.S. armour on the permanent basis on NATO’s eastern flank in the mentioned amounts there will emerge solid reasons for calling in question the alliance’s compliance with these liabilities.”
March 6 Riga summit, on 21-22 May 2015: “deliverables”]
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is the EU initiative covering relations with Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is the wish of the hosts that all countries be represented at the level of heads of state and government, this was a decision to be taken by consensus among the 28 member countries. The previous such summit, held in Vilnius in November 2013. Member states had no consensus on offering membership perspective to the Union to any of the countries covered. Some EU countries wanted “deliverables” a jargon term for the possibility of granting a visa-free regime to Ukraine and Georgia. In EU jargon, this is called “visa liberalisation”, while “visa facilitation” is offered to countries less advanced in the process of lifting the visa barrier with the EU.
[February 25 2015 U.S. Army Second Cavalry Regiment in military parade to mark Estonia’s Independence Day.]
The soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Second Cavalry Regiment were taking part in a military parade to mark Estonia’s Indepen- dence Day.
[February 24 Moldova:pro-Western businessman the country’s next Prime Minister.]
[February 17 Moldova: a slumping domestic economy]
The leu has lost 25 percent against the dollar since the start of 2015, pressured by a rapidly slowing domestic economy, a currency crisis in Russia and conflict in Ukraine. Former Soviet countries are feeling the pain as Russia, for many the main trading partner, suffers from Western sanctions over Ukraine and a weak oil market, which sent the rouble down about 40 percent against the dollar last year. Moldova’s economy, which grew 9.2 percent in 2013, is expected to have contracted by up to 2 percent last year. “The national exchange rate mirrors the economic situation, which was hit by three shocks,”citing a Russian embargo on Moldovan wine and certain food products, a decline in exports, and a fall in remittances from migrant workers, 400,000 of whom work in Russia.
[January 27 Moldova: Two pro-European parties plus Communists may form government]
Two pro-European parties have agreed to form a minority government in Moldova but will need support from the Communist Party to pass legislation. They have 42 seats in the 101-seat legislation. The Communists, with 20 seats, say they will support the government depending on who is proposed as prime minister.
[January 1 Putin Christmas wish, U.S. Marines in Balti]
December 31 2014: In a New Year’s address Russian President Vladimir Putin wished Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti a Merry Christmas and “expressed hope” that the two countries would work together “in order to strengthen regional stability and security.” Some experts fear that the eastern pro-Russian Moldovan territory of Transnistria, which borders Ukraine, will be the next area in Eastern Europe to take up a violent separatist campaign with the help of Russia.
January 1, 2015: U.S., Marines headed into the small, former Soviet republic to talk anti-armor best practices with local troops. A mix of about 15 assaultmen and anti-tank missilemen with the Romania-based Black Sea Rotational Force arrived in Balti, Moldova for the weeklong joint training exercise.
The detachment of Marines led a mix of conscripts and career soldiers with varying specialties — most were artillerymen — in discussions about doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures. The event, which included a live-fire exercise, saw the troops use the FGM-148 Javelin, AT4 Anti-Tank Weapon and shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapons, as well as Moldova’s rocket propelled grenade system and 70mm recoilless rifle.
First Lt. Ben Skarzynski, executive officer for the rotational force’s weapons company who oversaw the exercise, would only go so far as to describe it as giving the Moldovans the “capability to provide for themselves.”
;December 20 Putin forgets Moldova]
“We have basically only two bases abroad, and those are in terroristically dangerous directions: in Kyrgyzstan after militants from Afghanistan entered that country, at the request of the Kyrgyz authorities, and in Tajikistan — also on the border with Afghanistan.”
in Transnistria, Russia keeps about 1,500 troops in the Moldovan breakaway republic, based in the de facto capitol Tiraspol as well as in the Bender Fortress. On August 4, Moscow accused Moldova and Ukraine of trying to block Russia’s access to its troops in Transdniester.
Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe, and it relies heavily on remittances from the several hundred thousand Moldovan citizens working in Russia. Most Moldovans convert the rubles they earn into dollars or euros before
[December 17 MEPS compensate Moldova’s producers for their Russian losses]
Moldova will be able to export up to 40,000 tonnes of fresh apples, 10,000 tonnes of fresh table grapes and 10,000 tonnes of fresh plums to the EU duty free, thanks to a proposal backed by MEPs on Wednesday. This should compensate Moldova’s producers for their losses due to Russia’s politically-motivated ban on imports of Moldovan produce.
Moldova will be able to import duty-free
40,000 tons of fresh apples (= 0.4% of EU output)
10,000 tons fresh table grapes (= 0.6% of EU output)
10, 000 tonnes fresh plums (= 0.7% of EU output)
Most of these imports are likely to go to Romania.
MEPs approved the concession by 551 votes to 67, with 23 abstentions.
[December 2 pro-EU parties had around 44% while the opposition had around 40% in parliamentary elections]
The United States congratulates the people of Moldova on the November 30 parliamentary elections, another milestone in their nation’s democratic development. The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) found that the technical conduct of the elections yesterday was in line with international standards and norms. We share ODIHR’s concern with the decision of Moldova’s Central Election Commission to remove one party from the ballot only a few days before the elections.
[earlier]With nearly 80% of votes counted, the three pro-EU parties had around 44% while the opposition had around 40%.
The subsequent inevitable tough bargaining will be watched closely by Russia.
[November 30 Moldova’s central election committee declares elections valid]
With about 30% of the vote counted, the pro-Russian Socialist Party was in the lead with about 23%, election officials said. The main opposition party – the Communist Party – was running a close second with 20%.
The Liberal Democrats, who want Moldova to achieve EU candidate status by 2017 and full membership by 2020. They were polling about 18%.
Its coalition partner, the Democratic Party, was polling about 16%.
The most strongly pro-EU and pro-Nato party, the Liberals, was on about 7%.
Tough post-election bargaining is predicted.
About 2.7 million people are eligible to cast their ballots, electing a single-chamber 101-seat parliament by a system of proportional representation. The turnout was just under 56%.
[Earlier]Moldovans are voting in parliamentary elections November 30. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone conversation not to attempt to destabilize Moldova, on March 23.
On March 23, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s top military commander warned that Russia had a “very sizable” force on Ukraine’s eastern border that could easily pass through Ukraine to seize Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria.
The Russian annexation of Crimea is threatening to reignite a conflict in an often forgotten corner of Europe: the self-styled breakaway republic of Transnistria.
Transnistria, a thin strip of land sandwiched between Ukraine and the former Soviet republic of Moldova, has close ties with Moscow. Last week lawmakers in the region formally asked the Duma, Russia’s parliament, if it could
Ms. Merkel nonetheless reiterated Germany’s position that it won’t recognize the annexation of Crimea, Mr. Seibert said.
Moldova’s central election committee declared the elections valid with turnout at 39.2 percent of voters as of 3:30 p.m. local time, Interfax reported, citing the body’s chairman, Yury Chokan.
[February 28 MAKO Group’s Oleksandr Yanukovych and deposed president, Viktor Yanukovych have Swiss assets seized, also Austria and Liechtenstein]
Geneva’s chief prosecutor’s office searched the premises of a company owned by Oleksander Yanukovych. The Swiss authorities have frozen all assets of Ukraine’s deposed president, Viktor Yanukovych, and launched a money laundering investigation into him and his son.
The foreign ministry said all assets and bank accounts held by Yanukovych and 19 other people of his entourage in Switzerland were blocked
Austria and the principality of Liechtenstein announced a similar asset freeze.
Yanukovych’s MAKO Group of companies (majority shareholder is Oleksandr Yanukovych) was assessed by (auditor) PricewaterhouseCoopers as having $212 million in assets in 2011, grossing $663,000 from sales. (In March 2012 Yanukovych’s net worth was estimated to be at least $130 million by Kyiv Post.) In 2011 time MAKO consisted of 16 enterprises located in Ukraine, Switzerland and the Netherlands and it employed some 700 people in 2011.MAKO Group is primarily involved in property development and construction, banking, and the export of high-grade coal. MAKO started to grow heavily since 2010. Before 2013 the company had denied it has bid for government public procurement contracts, taking part in government privatizations of state assets, or being involved in the extraction of natural resources. In November 2012 Forbes Ukraine reported that companies linked to (Oleksandr) Yanukovych in 2012 at no cost had taken over majority stakes worth an estimated $10 million in five coal enrichment plants from the state.[ This had been denied by Yanukovych; he claimed it was Black PR aimed against his father. As of February 2013 Forbes Ukraine claims (Oleksandr) Yanukovych earned most in Ukrainian Public Procurement contracts then any other businessmen since the beginning of 2012. Forbes.ua reported in February 2014 that in January 2014, for example, his businesses won 50% of all state tenders.
In early 2014 his personal assesses were claimed to be over $500 million