Moldova: Soviet nostalgia and European hope

The pro-Russian opposition in Moldova defied the laws of the Republic on Monday during a massive march in Chisinau on the occasion of Victory Day, a commemoration of the triumph of the USSR against Nazism transformed into vindication of the imperialism of the Kremlin and Putin’s war against Ukraine.

It borders Ukraine, and with nearly 2,000 Russian soldiers permanently stationed in the rebel enclave of Transnistria, in Moldovan but independent territory. de facto for more than three decades, the former Soviet republic of Moldova is claimed as part of the Russian Empire by Kremlin propaganda.

The war of conquest against Ukraine has caused unrest in Moldovawho fears being the target of destabilizing actions by Moscow that seek to return the country to Russia’s sphere of influence.

Despite the fact that the Parliament of Moldova, with a pro-European majority, has just banned the orange and black ribbon with which the russian irredentism, several opposition political leaders wore this symbol of Putinism on their lapels on Monday, without the police daring to intervene in the sea of ​​protesters who waved the flags of Moldova and the Soviet Union. The march – in which, according to estimates by this correspondent, some 15,000 people participated – was led by the former president of Moldova, and current de facto leader of the pro-Russian opposition, Igor Dodon, who paraded wearing a black and orange striped ribbon from Saint George on the lapel, surrounded by Soviet veterans in uniform.

Dodón had previously announced that he would not respect the ban – which also affects other pro-Russian symbols, such as the Z that represents the invasion of Ukraine – and will sell this as a victory against the pro-Western government. violation of the laws of the Republic. “It is a way of marking the territory”, he has declared to digital freedom the former Moldovan diplomat Iulian Fruntasu, who recalls that the parade takes place every year and sees in this show of force a reminder of the survival of pro-Russian sentiment in Moldovan society.

The demonstration, however, should not be seen as a show of popular enthusiasm for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. More than an act of political adherence, May 9 is, for many Moldovans, a kind of spring festival in which they indulge in nostalgia for a time when they were younger. An revival in which to get emotional with Katyusha and pay tribute to their parents and grandparents, although pro-Kremlin activists use it to show their bosses that they work.

There is also the factor of social discontent. After coming to power in 2021, the current pro-European government has faced the covid pandemic, the explosion in energy prices and Putin’s war against one of his neighbors and preferred trading partners. The population has suffered the effects and this, and not loyalty to an increasingly feared and discredited Putin, is the main mobilizing trump card of the pro-Russian opposition.

Many Moldovans feared incidents on the occasion of the Victory Day celebration, after the authorities of the pro-Russian separatist enclave of Transnistria reported having suffered several bomb attacks on their territory, for which they have held Ukraine responsible.

All experts contacted by digital freedom They agree with the Moldovan and Ukrainian authorities in attributing these attacks to forces from the separatist region. Those responsible could find pretexts to raise tensions and threaten to open a new front. According to some specialists, Russia and its puppets in Transnistria seek to create the impression that enclave Russian troops could be activated to attack Ukraine from the west, so that the Ukrainian army is forced to stay on guard in the area and cannot send more units to the already active fronts in the south and east.

Be that as it may, and despite the success of the pro-Russian demonstration on Monday, the situation is less grim than it appears for Moldova, and some even see hope in the new reality that the heroic ukrainian resistance. This is the case of political analyst Igor Botan, who sees Moldova in a much better position than when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

Had it invaded Ukraine with the expected ease, Russia would have had no problem taking over Odessa and extending its occupied territories into Transnistria itself. Although no one believes that the Kremlin has an interest (or need) in intervene militarily in MoldovaFew doubt that it would force the installation of a puppet government if it arrived at the gates of Moldova. The Ukrainian military successes, however, make the fall of Odessa unthinkable at this time, which is a guarantee for the security of Moldova.

“My fear was that Europe, which is used to peace and abundance, would not react and would choose to maintain its relations with Russia,” explains Botan, who celebrates the European support for Ukraine and the interest that the EU is showing in the region and in Moldova.

Taking advantage of the tailwind of the wave of sympathy for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia have joined kyiv in its request to be admitted to the EU, which could allow these countries to skip several stages in a hypothetical integration process which would otherwise be advertised as extremely long and arduous.

Although the horizon of admission still seems distant, the assertiveness of the President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, and the Government, led by also a Harvard graduate Natalia Gavrilita, has redoubled Chisinau’s contacts and cooperation with more committed Western democracies than ever with viability of the country as an open society.

“Thanks to Ukraine, doors are opening for us that we could not even dream of”the analyst Igor Botan concludes on all this dramatic and positive constellation.



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