Operation “Uniria” – Putin’s unfinished gestalt in Gagauzia
The notorious Romanian senator Diana Shoshoaka (Șoșoaca), who recently proposed to attack Ukraine and annex “historical Romanian lands,” has come up with another scandalous initiative. Shoshoaka suggested that the Romanian parliament urgently consider the idea of uniting Moldova and Romania.
The idea of “Unirea,” or the merger of the two countries, is quite popular on both sides of the Prut. However, at the same time, it remains a key propaganda motive for intimidating the population of such pro-Russian territories of Moldova as Transnistria and Gagauzia. Local politics there is built on the basis of demonizing Romania. Under the current circumstances, this idea, voiced by an odious Romanian politician, is yet another Kremlin propaganda operation.
Moldovan “Mata Hari”s
The Republic of Moldova is entering a challenging pre-election period, which begins with the election of the Bashkan (the Head) of Gagauzia on April 30. Then, this fall, local elections will be held throughout the Republic and in the following years – parliamentary and presidential campaigns.
The fact that such young democracies in transition as Moldova are very sensitive to external influences is not worth explaining. But it is valid and helpful to study how Russia is trying to take into its orbit all possible spheres of domestic policy on the example of Ukraine’s neighbours. The “methodology” is the same, but the local peculiarities differ.
In the current environment, effective regional propaganda (from information campaigns to paid demonstrations and various measures of influence) comes, at least in this way, from two women politicians: the already mentioned Romanian senator Diana Shoshoaka and one of the leaders of the pro-Russian party “Shor” in Moldova, Marina Tauber.
The Ukrainian audience mostly learned about Romanian Senator Shoshoaka after her recent initiative to annex “historical Romanian territories” from Ukraine. This statement was immediately followed by a reaction from the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, which announced sanctions against the Romanian senator.
However, according to Romanian media reports, Ms Shoshoaka is likely also practicing the Russian “methodology”. We can at least speak for sure about the close friendship between Ms Shoshoaka and Russian Ambassador to Romania Valery Kuzmin, which is already an eloquent fact.
For example, Ms Shoshoaka was one of the guests at a reception at the Russian embassy on the occasion of the Russian diplomat’s day, where an exhibition was held at the same time, dedicated to the so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine, i.e. the war crimes of the Russian occupiers in Ukraine. The Russians are proud of them and invite their agents of influence like Ms Shoshoaka to share this “pride”.
With Marina Tauber, everything is more straightforward. Her task is to mobilize anti-government sentiment and shift the focus of public opinion from external security threats from Russia to social issues, to accuse the Maia Sandu government of worsening the economic crisis. To make citizens, i.e. voters, believe the domestic policy is more important even if missiles occasionally hit them.
Because the Republic of Moldova, although not to the same extent as Ukraine, has experienced the consequences of power outages due to Russian shelling, and missile fragments have landed several times in the regions bordering Ukraine.
These two persons, Ms Tauber and Ms Shoshoaka, are in different states and do not even interact with each other. Still, the space, time, methods, and political circumstances in which everything happens suggest that the actions of both ladies are coordinated and synchronized.
Is Gagauzia the new Transnistria?
During the election campaign in Gagauzia, one of the methods of intimidation used by pro-Russian forces (and they are the majority in the region) is the factor of Romania. In simple words, Gagauz people are persistently told: “Romania will absorb Moldova”. It is worth noting that the same rhetoric is observed by the occupation administration in the territory of unrecognized Transnistria.
To get a rough idea of the level of separatist threat in this region, it is worth recalling a referendum held in Gagauzia with the support of Russia before the occupation of Crimea. During this referendum, more than 98% of Gagauz residents allegedly voted in favor of a future with Russia and the right to secede from Moldova if it loses its statehood.
It is about Chisinau’s rapprochement with the EU and, in Moldovan realities, primarily with Romania. That is why the demonization of Romania in Moldova is a matter of survival of Russian influence. Such personalities as Tauber (not even mentioning former Moldovan President Igor Dodon, his party, and dozens of other “experts” and “politicians”) receive Russian support. In other words, Russia practiced not only the military element of occupation (Transnistria) and energy blackmail but also the strategy of seizing territory through a fake referendum. Later, having worked on its mistakes, Russia put this scheme into practice in Ukrainian Crimea and not only.
So, recently, Diana Shoshoaka, from the other side of the border, decided to add more sense to the case and went “all-in”. The odious politician submitted to the Romanian parliament a bill on the unification of… Moldova and Romania. Before that, the list of “historical Romanian lands” that the senator proposed to annex from Ukraine already included the Moldovan city of Cahul, south of the Republic of Moldova (but no one paid attention to this detail!).
At the same time, Marina Tauber, on the Moldovan side of the border, is also staying upright. She declared that some intelligence reported to her that President Maia Sandu and Prime Minister Dorin Recean were preparing a provocation in which (note the “subtle” hint!) Romania was involved. In other words, Moldovan politician Tauber is simply highlighting the plan of her Romanian “colleague” Diana Shoshoaca.
“According to international intelligence services, obtained from several sources. There is verified information that our government, Maia Sandu and Dorin Recean, is preparing a military provocation on the border with Transnistria. This military provocation is scheduled for April 17. (…) Last week, our authorities (…) sent to Romania 10,000 sets of National Police uniforms and 10,000 sets of Moldovan army uniforms,” said Marina Tauber at a briefing on March 24.
Why Gagauzia and not Transnistria?
Separatist sentiments in Gagauzia and Transnistria were a manifestation of Russian aggression against Moldova in the nineties and still remain so. While the war in Transnistria ended with the self-proclamation of the so-called Transnistrian Moldovan Republic, the conflict in Gagauzia was resolved through a compromise to grant the region autonomy.
It is worth remembering that back then, Transnistrian separatists also contributed to the escalation of the conflict in Gagauzia, hoping to create a “brotherly republic.” Therefore, the motives underlying these processes were identical, as were the forces that extended and supported this topic.
This situation has stayed the same to this day. With only one exception – the status of autonomy legalizes separatist sentiments in Gagauzia. It forces the central government to consider this, while Transnistria has been outlawed for over 30 years.
Thus, because the anti-government rallies led by Tauber, although numerous, do not find support from voters in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, pro-Russian forces are taking a course to undermine the southern part of the Republic.
Many factors may contribute to this:
1). The election of the Bashkan (the Head of the Gagauz autonomy) of Gagauzia creates a tense situation in the region and the country.
The hypothetical possibility of involving resources from unrecognized Transnistria in provocations in Gagauzia, as it was in the nineties:
- Transportation of voters,
- “Titushki” for provocations and some extras.
- Even weapons from Russian warehouses etc.
2). Considering Shoshoaka’s appetites (read – Russian wishes), which have been extended to the town of Cahul near Gagauzia, it is high time to recall the promises of pro-Russian President Dodon to repair the local airfield. The Russian occupiers may be counting on the opportunity to enter the country’s south from this direction. Who knows?
3). The campaign to demonize Romania, both in Ukraine and Moldova and especially in the Moldovan separatist regions, should become an emotional trigger for potential unrest and provocations in Gagauzia and Transnistria against the backdrop of the elections.
4). The destabilization of southern Moldova with the involvement of Transnistrian propaganda and “administrative” resources is a formula for destabilization that Russia used back in 1994 and tried to repeat in 2015 against Ukraine, using the above-mentioned separatist territories to undermine southern Ukraine. With the participation of separatists from these regions of Moldova, Russia tried to create the so-called Bessarabian People’s Council.
“The Council was established as a representative body to protect the interests of the national communities of Bessarabia. The meeting was attended by representatives of seven key Bessarabian communities (Bulgarian, Gagauz, Russian, Ukrainian, Gypsy, Moldovan, and Polish). In total, the event was attended by about 100 delegates. Among them were deputies of local councils of the Odesa region, public figures and journalists. Foreign guests at the meeting included Sviatoslav Proynov, leader of the youth wing of the Ataka party (Bulgaria), Mikhail Garbuz, leader of the Patriots of Moldova party Mihail Garbuz, a former member of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova Grigore Petrenco, and others. In his welcoming remarks, the leader of the People’s Council, Chairman of the Union of Transnistrians of Ukraine, Dmytro Zatuliver, said: “We see our mission in making sure that Bessarabia receives the status of national and cultural autonomy. Our peoples should be adequately represented in Ukraine’s political and economic life, and our communities should influence decisions concerning our region,” the Odesa-based “Dumskaya ” website said.
These “Bessarabians”, including Moldovan citizens, in the scenario of the “Gagauz referendum”, stated that if Ukraine joins NATO, they reserve “the right to self-determination of Bessarabia”.
Hints of “Bessarabia” were heard from Kremlin agents in Moldova even after the full-scale invasion. Russian propaganda still needs to develop this discourse due to the obvious success of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the battlefield.
For example, similar posts on social media were made by the former Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova, Ion Chicu, who Ukrainian law enforcement agencies unfairly ignore.
Therefore, the elections in Gagauzia should remain, among other things, Ukraine’s business. All of this gives reason to expect another attempt to destabilize the region bordering the Ukrainian South.
Author: Marianna Prysiazhnyuk