Moldova has been engulfed by waves of mass protests against corruption, price hikes and election fraud for more than a year. But unlike the earlier protests in neighboring Ukraine, dominated by ultraright and pro-Western groups, Moldova’s protesters have been moving steadily to the left. They have been led by parties opposed to the “European path” of neoliberalism and NATO integration that has devastated the country’s economy. They call for restoring good relations with the country’s traditional trading partners in Russia and other former Soviet republics.
Polls taken in late January and early February showed that new parliamentary elections — a key demand of the opposition — would result in an overwhelming victory for opponents of pro-Western reforms.
This set off alarm bells in Washington. Despite Moldova’s modest size, a progressive turnaround in a country with strong working-class traditions and commitment to independence from the West could effect a major change in the region’s political situation, emboldening opponents of U.S. domination and its drive toward war against Russia.
Mass opposition in Chisinau
U.S. State Department official Victoria Nuland — infamous for her role in the far-right coup in Ukraine two years ago — had met with Romanian President Klaus Johannis in Bucharest on Jan. 18 to bestow Washington’s blessings on schemes to set up a new Moldovan government, to be headed by Pavel Filip, a protégé of the Moldovan billionaire Vlad Plahotniuc.
“The most important thing,” Nuland declared, “is that there is a strong pro-European government.” (newsmaker.md, Jan. 19)
Nuland made her proclamation in the face of mass protests sweeping Chisinau. Protesters declared the plan for a new government illegitimate.
Two days later, Pavel Filip was hurriedly installed as prime minister and set about forming his new cabinet over the objections of the parliamentary opposition and in violation of legal procedure.
The new government was installed in the dead of night, while thousands of protesters outside attempting to enter the parliament were pushed back by riot police brought in from around the country.
U.S. ambassador to Moldova, James Pettit, met in secret with the new government. He reportedly cautioned against using force on the protesters or arresting opposition leaders, instead urging Filip and his cabinet to wait them out. But he added that, if the situation continued to escalate, the U.S. would not condemn repressive measures. (Omega News Agency, Jan. 30)
In the aftermath of these events, opposition groups, including the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova; the left-leaning, pro-Russian “Our Party,” headed by Balti Mayor Renato Usatii; and the pro-European Civic Platform “Dignity and Truth” met on Jan. 29 to draw up a united list of demands — first and foremost, for early parliamentary elections. (Omega, Feb. 4)
They also called for the release of the Petrenko Group political prisoners — seven communist activists from the Red Bloc party jailed since a protest in the capital last Sept. 6.
U.S. plan: Divide and conquer
It wasn’t long before Chisinau was abuzz with reports that Washington was backing a Romanian plan called “Unirea-2018,” which called for the end of Moldova as an independent state and its absorption by Romania. This is the latest phase in a longstanding project of the far-right known as “Unionism.”
Respected journalist and political commentator Dmitry Chubashenko summarized: “All of the Romanian political elite are obsessed with the idea of Moldova’s accession to Romania. In this respect there is a full multiparty consensus. No one denies that there is a plan of action under the code name ‘Unirea-2018,’ in which 2018 represents the 100th anniversary of the ‘grand unification’ [Romanian occupation] in 1918. …
“Currently, the Americans are actively promoting plans for Romania’s absorption of Moldova.” (pan.md, March 16)
The plan reportedly depends on a parliamentary decision rather than a popular vote, and would result in Moldova’s immediate integration into NATO and the EU.
With U.S. support, Moldovan Prime Minister Filip and the oligarch Plahotniuc have been playing both sides in order to undermine the opposition and exacerbate divisions in society.
Since Filip’s appointment, pro-Unionist forces have been widely promoted. He personally intervened to allow Romanian ultrarightist Dzheordzhe Simion to enter Moldova and promote the Unionist case. (grenada.md, Feb. 10)
Meanwhile, media owned by Plahotniuc have given a great deal of airtime to pro-Romanian propaganda.
Yet, on March 27, prominent members of Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party joined some representatives of the opposition at a march to oppose a Unionist demonstration in Chisinau.
Romania occupied Moldova from 1918 to 1944. During World War II, the Romanian monarchy collaborated with the Nazis, carrying out many atrocities against the populace before the country’s liberation by the Soviet Red Army and local partisans in August 1944.
Petrenko: Unite against regime on April 24
On Feb. 22, after nearly six months in jail, the Petrenko Group prisoners were transferred to house arrest. However, they are still not being allowed to speak directly to the media or use social media sites.
Their trial on trumped-up charges of “organizing a riot” continues, with the activists facing years in prison if convicted.
While welcoming the transfer to house arrest, supporters of the political prisoners pointed out that this was yet another attempt to undermine the opposition, which had demanded their immediate release and dropping of the bogus charges.
Red Bloc leader Grigory Petrenko appealed for a renewal of united protests against the oligarch regime on April 24.
Urging people not to be diverted by the regime’s manipulation of the Romanian union issue and presidential elections, Petrenko declared:
“Demands for parliamentary elections, de-politicization of the security forces and courts, arrest of Plahotniuc and his cronies, bringing to justice all the accomplices in the theft of a billion [from the country’s banking system] — these are the main slogans around which the opposition must unite.
“I believe that the April 24 protests should be nationwide, regardless of what language we speak and what political views we share. We have a common problem in our country, the criminal Plahotniuc regime.” (grenada.md, April 3)