Russia retaliates but doesn’t escalate diplomatic spat with Moldova

Russia retaliates but doesn’t escalate diplomatic spat with Moldova
By bne IntelliNews May 31, 2017

Moldova’s embassy in Russia was informed on May 31 that five of its employees had been declared persona non grata and asked to leave the country within 72 hours, in response to the expulsion on May 29 of five Russian diplomats in Chisinau, according to a note from the Russian foreign minister.

The step came in the context of Russian officials avoiding further escalation of the situation between the two countries. It was a routine decision by the Russian authorities, applied in such cases, and it leaves the door open for Moldova’s pro-Russian President Igor Dodon. 

In fact, Russian Vice-minister of Foreign Affairs Grigori Karasin had previously explained that Russian authorities understand the Moldovan move as an attempt by the pro-EU ruling coalition in Chisinau aimed at preventing “the normalisation” of ties with Russia, promoted by Dodon.

In the meantime, the identity of the Russian diplomats and the possible formal reason for them being expelled from Moldova surfaced. Moldova declared persona non grata the military attache at Russia’s embassy in Chisinau, Igor Dobvnia, and his assistants. The main reason was their participation in military parades organised by the authorities of the pro-Russian separatist republic of Transnistria, Radio Free Europe reported, quoting unofficial sources.

The diplomatic incident comes in the context of the Moldovan authorities taking a tighter stance against Transnistria. On May 31, the joint checkpoint organised by Moldova and Ukraine at Cuciurgan came into operation. Such checkpoints that exclude the Transnistrian authorities cut deep into the separatists' budget revenues. Transnistria hopes Russia will back its demand for 5+2 talks on this issue, but there has been no effective action from the Russian authorities in this regard yet.

The incident involving the Russian diplomats in Chisinau is likely to help Moldova’s senior ruling Democratic Party gain credibility among the country’s development partners and even among voters. While the cohabitation between the Democrats and Dodon goes smoothly in most cases (such as the nomination of Moldovagaz’ head manager or the electoral system amendments aimed at impeding opposition parties’ access to parliament), the two sides are still competing for gaining stronger bargaining power.

The Democrats recently lost one of their coalition partners, the Liberal Party, which quit after one of its leaders, Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoaca, was detained in a corruption case. However, this is more likely to damage the Liberals than the Democrats. Leaving the Liberals - the only party advocating for the country’s unification with Romania - helps the Democratic Party gain more support among the Russian speaking and moderate Romanian-speaking electorate. 


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