As Moldova prepares to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, Russia is stepping up attempts to keep the country in its fold. It has found some willing helpers in the country.
If Mihail Formuzal had his way, the revolution in Kiev never would have happened. Then, Moldova would choose Russia instead of Europe, and the planned Association Agreement with the EU would already be history. The 54-year-old Formuzal is president of the autonomous Gagauzia region in Moldova. In early February he carried out a referendum by polling the approximately 155,000 members of the Gagauz Orthodox Christian minority here.
He wanted to know if they’d rather be part of the Russia-led Customs Union or work with the European Union. The result: 98.5 percent of the participants voted for Russia — 68,000 votes to 1,900.
In Moldova, the Gagauz are considered Moscow’s fifth column. “We aren’t against the EU, we’re pragmatic,” says Formuzal, a former Soviet artillery major, as he sits in an office on Lenin Street with a massive granite Lenin perched in front of his window. “My son is studying in Giessen, in Germany; Europe’s biggest shoe salesman, Heinrich Deichmann, is Gagauzia’s greatest patron,” he says. “We like all European values, except your gay marriage.”
During Kiev’s weekend of revolution he sent a message of solidarity to Ukraine — not to the demonstrators but to one of Viktor Yanukovych’s last acolytes. He commended the man, a governor in the northwest of Ukraine, for not giving in to the opposition, and offered him his support. Moldova, he wrote, could take in injured police officers from the Berkut special forces unit and treat them. These were the men who had purposely fired on demonstrators in Kiev, the henchmen of the old regime.
When the situation fell apart, Yanukovych disappeared and his followers stepped down or joined the opposition, while Russia had to stand on the sidelines.
Russia’s Moldovan Agenda
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