Editor's Note: This is an adapted version of an article by Hromadske’s partner, Ziarul de Gardă.
Vladimir Putin has been in power in the Russian Federation for the last twenty years without interruption. In that time, he has been an influential force in Moldovan-Russian relations, which have been taking place in the context of the ongoing frozen conflict in the Transnistria region.
President Boris Yeltsin first appointed Putin Prime Minister of Russia in 1999. Then, starting in 2000, Putin served two four-year presidential terms back to back. In 2008, he was elected prime minister once again, and then amended the Constitution, allowing him to run for president once more. In 2012, he began the first of two extended six-year terms as president and is now set to remain in power until 2024.
To mark the anniversary of Putin’s twentieth year in power on August 9, Hromadske’s partner Ziarul de Gardă asked a few of Moldova’s politicians and opinion leaders how Vladimir Putin’s time in office has influenced Moldova, as well as Moldovan-Russian relations.
On August 27, 1991, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova declared its independence from the USSR and became the Republic of Moldova. From then on, relations between Moldova and the Russian Federation were marked by increasing tensions. In 1992, an armed conflict broke out on the Nistru River.
The conflict has not been resolved even 27 years later, and Russia has yet to withdraw its military troops from Moldova’s Transnistria region on the left bank of the Nistru. Nevertheless, Moldovan politics remains influenced by pro-Kremlin forces – like the Socialist Party led by current President Igor Dodon, who is often accused of being under the direct influence of the Putin regime.
Moldovan writer Vladimir Beșleagă believes the Russians are lucky. "I am happy with the Russians having such a president – fighting for the nation," he said. But referring to Putin's role in Moldova’s fate, Beșleagă condemned his actions.
“Vladimir Putin behaved as aggressively with Moldova as Boris Yeltsin. They always wanted to swallow us. When Putin came to power, Russia's brightest minds had been stunned. A Russian intellectual said that a rare species of man came to power, and that is why he has been around for 20 years already,” he claimed.
“Moldovan-Russian relations have always been dictated by Putin. Through all these years this was a subordination relationship. The Kremlin still believes that the territory of the Republic of Moldova belongs to it. Putin promotes separatism, declares embargoes on goods from Moldova. This is his contribution,” Vladimir Beșleagă added.
Moldovan-Russian relations will not return to normal, especially now that Dodon is also Putin’s slave. Everything is upside down.
Ion Leahu, the former head of the Moldovan Delegation to the Joint Control Commission in the Transnistrian Security Zone from 2002 to 2013, expressed his conviction that "the period in which Putin ruled was one of the darkest periods for Moldova."
"If until Putin's arrival there were chances that Russian troops would be removed from the territory of the Republic of Moldova, then after Putin's enthronement it became clear that the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict is almost impossible. We cannot overlook several embargoes and restrictions that have harmed the wine industry, the agricultural industry in general,” Ion Leahu said.
Leahu also considers Putin’s policy to blame for the cooling of relations between Moldova and the European Union.
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"Moldova must follow the European path. Moldova's problems with the E.U. are directly proportional to Moldovan-Russian relations and Putin's attitude. Through Putin's persona, Russia imposed an unexplained condition – to discard relations with the E.U. and this has had consequences,” he explained.
Valentin Dolganiuc, a former Member of Moldova’s first Parliament, also considers Putin's policy unfavorable for the Republic.
"It was not better during the period when Yeltsin was in power, when the Russian army was stationed here, but with Putin's arrival, the situation worsened dramatically. Russia's official policy was dictated by Putin's imperialist appeals, and this was manifested in the case of Moldova, Chechnya, [and] Ukraine," Dolganiuc said.
He claims that the Kremlin authorities directly influenced Moldova’s political regime.
"In the Russian Federation, Putin was in power. In Moldova in 2001 came Vladimir Voronin. Voronin led a pro-Russian policy, he himself acknowledged that. In 2009, the Republic of Moldova was left without communists, but the oligarchs came to power and impoverished the country. They laundered state money through Russia. Even the current state of chaos is favorable to Putin, so he feels strong,” the former Deputy told Ziarul de Gardă.
As long as Moldova is under the Russian umbrella, the country has no future, neither European nor Romanian. Putin and the irresponsible governments in Chișinău are holding Moldova back.
/ Materials from Ziarul de Gardă. Adaptation courtesy of the Russian Language News Exchange.