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Moldova confronts challenges from unsettled Gagauzia region

Moldova confronts challenges from unsettled Gagauzia region

Moldova confronts challenges from unsettled Gagauzia region

Moldova confronts challenges from unsettled Gagauzia region

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  • Prime Minister Dorin Recean supports the judicial reforms, stating courts will uproot criminal elements in the region.
  • Sandu has called for a referendum on joining the European Union and a presidential election.
  • Gutul, suspicious of the EU plan, has visited Russia and asked Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin for help.
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The pro-European government of Moldova faces a new challenge from its restive pro-Moscow Gagauzia region after its leaders denounced proposed judicial reforms and demanded enhanced status for the Russian language.

Since Moldova threw off Soviet rule in 1991, Gagauzia’s 140,000 residents, mainly ethnic Turks who adhere to Orthodox Christianity, have maintained uneasy relations with central authorities.

On Friday, the local assembly of Gagauzia rejected judicial reforms that would shut down an appeal court in the region and called for special status for Russian, alongside Moldova’s sole state language, Romanian.

According to Moldova’s constitution, the leader of Gagauzia, or bashkan, automatically becomes a member of the government in the country situated between Ukraine and Romania.

However, President Maia Sandu refuses to sign an enabling decree, citing that the current bashkan, Yevgenia Gutul, was elected on the ticket of a banned pro-Russian political party led by fugitive businessman Ilan Shor, convicted of mass fraud.

Prime Minister Dorin Recean supported the judicial reforms and stated that the courts would uproot what he referred to as criminal elements running the region.

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“The judicial system will do what it has to and bring to account all members of these groups,” he told a television interviewer on Friday evening. “There are no grounds for confrontation. Our goal is to build Europe.”

Sandu has identified Russia as the biggest threat to her country and has called for a referendum later in the year on joining the European Union alongside a presidential election.

Gutul is deeply suspicious of the EU plan, accuses Sandu of victimizing her region, and has made two trips to Russia in the past month, asking Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin for help.

Political analyst Vitalie Andrievschi stated that the Kremlin, along with Shor, endorsed the region’s demands, including its call for improved status for the Russian language, as part of a campaign to disrupt political activity in Moldova.

“They need this to stir things up in a year with a presidential election and referendum on the agenda to undermine stability and divide the country,” he told Reuters.

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