The Moldovan authorities continue investigating the “theft of the century” (when as much as $1bn was withdrawn from the country’s banking system in 2014), and, in the meantime, they are settling accounts with their financial-political rivals. This summer, they sentenced former prime minister Vladimir Filat to nine years in jail and had one of the richest Moldovans Veaceslav Platon extradited from Ukraine.
The role of Ukraine is a bit vague here. Besides being a citizen of Moldova and Russia, Platon is also a citizen of Ukraine (in his Ukrainian passport he is Kobalev). So, it was the first time that a Ukrainian citizen was extradited from his native country on the request of a foreign state – contrary to both national and international laws.
The Ukrainians arrested Platon just a few hours after the verdict of the Moldovan court and extradited him just a month later. It was strange to see the Ukrainian authorities being so quick and efficient – for they have disclosed no single notable case over the last years.
Platon’s extradition was just a deal between same-class people on both sides of the border. It was Kiev’s favor to a specific financial-political group in Chisinau before the Oct 30 presidential election. That group is led by Moldovan oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc (friend and business partner of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko). Platon could give lots of interesting facts about the “lost” billion and those facts could push down the ratings of Plahotniuc’s presidential nominees – Marian Lupu (the leader of the Democratic Party) and former prime minister Iurie Leanca. So, all the corrupt Moldovan authorities needed was Platon’s silence.
This case also has a geopolitical context. Referring to a document from Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, The Anonymous reports that one of the key foreign political priorities of the Kiev regime is to support Moldova’s Euro-Atlantic forces and to discredit pro-Eurasian groups (Igor Dodon’s Party of Socialists and Renato Usatii’s Patria).
Usatii was among the first to confirm Plahotniuc’s complicity to Platon’s extradition: “Platon told me that he had facts proving Plahotniuc’s complicity to the theft of the century and not only. He said that they had been partners for years and he had facts about Plahotniuc’s crimes. Yesterday, he made this public and by doing this he signed his own death warrant. Had he gone to the Interpol - as he was planning before - he would have blown up the local mass media.”
Later Usatii posted a number of documents exposing Plahotniuc’s shady affairs. One of them says that President Poroshenko was one of the founders of the criminal group that stole a total of 66mn MDL or $3.3mn from Gemeni Trade Center in 2001-2005. Even more, Usatii has organized a TV program about this case at the BTV TV company of Balti.
Moldova is not a foreign country for Poroshenko. He grew up there and it was there that his father, the founder of his current empire, Alexiy Poroshenko, started his career.
But this story is not solely about the narrow corporate interests of Ukrainian and Moldovan oligarchs. Closer contacts between the Ukrainian and Moldovan political elites imply higher risks for Transnistria. Over the last years, that unrecognized republic has been facing a tough economic blockade and a constant military threat from both the Kiev and Chisinau regimes and their sponsors in Washington and Bucharest. For two years already, the Ukrainians have been accumulating troops and building military facilities along Transnistria’s border.
During his meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in Mar 2015, Poroshenko said that Ukraine and Romania had to coordinate their efforts to unfreeze the Transnistrian conflict and to help Moldova to restore its territorial integrity.
Over the last year, the Ukrainians and the Romanians have been actively cooperating in defense: they have signed a deal on military traffic, the Ukrainians are going to join the Romanian-Bulgarian army brigade (earlier they joined the Lithuanian-Polish brigade), the sides are also considering creating a joint Black Sea fleet under NATO’s aegis.
This summer, Odessa and Mykolaiv hosted Sea Breeze 2016 military exercises, which involved troops from 16 countries, including Ukraine, Moldova and Romania, and this is not a good signal for Transnistria. Moldova’s Defense Minister Anatol Salaru has made it clear that the key problem for Moldova is “the illegal presence of Russian troops in the east of his country” and that this problem was discussed at NATO’s summit in Warsaw.
So, we can see a big knot of personal business and geopolitical interests growing in the Dniester-Danube region. The forthcoming elections in Moldova, Transnistria and the United States will make this knot even tighter. So, Russia must be ready for any development.
Denis Gayevsky, Kiev