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News 19 Dec 17

Moldova Risks Russian Retaliation After Withdrawing Ambassador

After Moldova’s decision to pull out its ambassador from Moscow, experts warn that relations between the two counties risk being broken off entirely.

Madalin Nescutu
BIRN
Chisinau
Andrei Neguta [left] and Igor Dodon. Photo: Presidency of Moldova

Moldova withdraw its ambassador Andrei Neguta from Moscow for an "undetermined period" on Monday afternoon. as relations between Russia and the former Soviet republic continue to plummet.

The foreign ministry stated that the measure was taken because Russian officials had harassed and intimidated officials and politicians from Moldova, without citing precise examples.

The move also comes after a court in Moscow announced recently that it had started criminal proceedings against Vlad Plahotniuc, the leader of Moldova's ruling pro-Western Democratic Party.

Moldova's pro-EU government and pro-Russian President, Igor Dodon, have long been in conflict over the country's basic orientation, and Dodon send Neguta to Moscow in 2017 due to his strong connections to the Russian Federation. Before being appointed as ambassador, Neguta was a deputy in parliament for Dodon’s Socialist Party.

The head of Russia's Foreign Trade Council Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, said he was disappointed with Chisinau's "unexpected" and "illogical" decision to withdraw Neguta.

Iulian Chifu, a Chisinau-based political analyst, said the decision to pull out the ambassador risked drawing retaliation from Russia, which could either withdraw its own ambassador or even break off diplomatic ties in the worst-case scenario.

Another political expert, Vitalie Andrievski, told Moldova's Infotag News Agency that Russia and Moldova could potentially defuse the tension between them by Russia withdrawing its troops from the pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria in return for Moldova pledging to remain neutral and not enter NATO.

At the moment, such a breakthrough looks unlikely, however. Relations between Moldova and Russia have deteriorated since Dodon won the presidential election last year, which some analysts see as foretaste of the likely fate of the pro-EU parties in Moldova in next year's general elections.

Political analyst Serghei Tkaci told Vedomosti, a Russian-language newspaper published in Chisinau, that by withdrawing its ambassador from Moscow, the Democratic Party had revealed its intention to play an anti-Russian and anti-Russian-speaking card in the campaign for next year’s elections.

Russia, the EU and Romania have all competed for influence in Moldova. Annexed by Tsarist Russia in the 19th century, it became part of Romania after World War I only to be annexed by the Soviet Union after the Second World War.

It became independent when the Soviet Union dissolved. However, the mainly Russian-speaking Transnistria region split off following a short war in 1992 and it has continued to resist rule by Moldova with Russian support.

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