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News 06 Jun 17

Moldovan President Ridiculed after Putin Joke

Critics nicknamed Moldova’s pro-Russian President Igor Dodon the ‘czar’s doormat’ after Russian President Vladimir Putin joked at his expense during a summit in Moscow.

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
Moldovan President Igor Dodon (right) on a panel with Indian PM Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Eurasian Economic Forum of Saturday. Photo: Facebook.

Moldova’s pro-Russian President Igor Dodon has become the target of mockery from rival politicians and the media in Chisinau after Russian President Vladimir Putin made a quip about him in Saint Petersburg, where the Moldovan head of state participated in the Eurasian Economic Summit on Saturday.

When a journalist at the summit asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi if he believes that the Russian Federation interfered in the presidential elections in the United States, Putin himself replied.

“Ask Dodon. He knows best,” Putin said, and Dodon smiled.

The joke refers to Russian tyrant Ivan the Terrible who, whenever he was bored, used to answer: “Ask my jester, he knows best.”

Moldovan media and analysts reacted by hurling criticism at Dodon, despite efforts from the presidency to downplay the incident.

Political analyst Petru Bogatu wrote on his Facebook page that Dodon was being used as the “czar’s jester” by “this sinister Moscow leader”.

“The masquerade man Igor Dodon finally found his place in history and nobody can take that away from him. His presidential mandate will end sooner or later, but the label of Czar Putin’s jester will never end,” Bogatu said.

Dodon has been a staunch supporter of closer ties with the Russian Federation and in his electoral campaign in 2016 he even promised to break Moldova’s trade agreement with the European Union and join the Putin-dominated Eurasian Union.

Since he took office in December 2016, the Moldovan president has visited Putin several times.

At their first meeting in January, however, Putin made him wait in his antechamber for three hours before he received him.

Putin gave Dodon as a gift a 1790 map of historic Moldova, before it was incorporated into Romania. Dodon presented it to the press, mistaking it for a map of Moldova in 1812, after the Russian-Turkish War, when the Ottoman Empire first gave Bessarabia, nowadays Moldova, to the Russian Empire.

Dodon was also the only head of state from the former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States who stood at Putin’s side for the May 9 Victory Day Parade, marking the end of World War II.

Dodon had a private meeting with Putin on Friday on the sidelines of the St Petersburg forum, his fifth since becoming president.

On his Facebook page, he said he apologised to Putin for the decision by the government in Chisinau to expel five Russian diplomats last week.

He also said that Putin promised that there would be no further retaliation after the expulsion of five Moldovan diplomats.

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