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LOOKING AHEAD
21.04.2009

Konstantin Cheremnykh

THE FIASCO OF THE "OAK REVOLUTION"

Moldova's Khodorkovsky suspected of organizing pogroms

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

On April 7, when the parliamentary elections in Moldova were followed with an intervention of crowd of young men into the national parliament, Russian TV commentators were visibly confused. By that time, the official reaction from Kremlin, where Moldova's President Vladimir Voronin had been warmly received three weeks earlier, was not yet available. At the same time, the leadership of Moldova used to have a controversial reputation: the only leader of an official Communist party in ex-USSR, he had maintained a balanced political behavior towards Russia and the West, his country being a member of both the Community of Independent States and the alternative US-sponsored GUAM alliance.

After USSR's disintegration, the Republic of Moldova was doomed to become the poorest of the successor states. In 1992, the republic actually split into two, after its western part (which had a status of an autonomy inside Soviet Ukraine until the reunification of the former Bessarabia into the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1940) separated into a de facto independent entity of Transdniester Republic. This split was a result of the political conflict between the Kishinev-based liberal democrats led by then-President Mircea Snegur, and Tiraspol-centered socialists headed by ethnic Russian Igor Smirnov. Since that time, Kishinev (Chisinau) accused Tiraspol, where a significant amount of ex-Soviet weapons are stored until now, of separatism with Moscow backing, while Tiraspol politicians claimed that Kishinev is going to cheaply sell itself to the adjacent Romania.

While Transdniester developed on the Byelorussian pattern, conserving the Soviet-type style of economic management and thus saving productive industries, the larger Moldova, dominated with agricultural lands, tried to survive by development of wine industry. This was a hard task, as General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachov, during his famous anti-alcohol campaign of 1986, ruled to burn down the best Moldavian vineyards, and they had to be reclaimed from scratch.

The parliamentary rule, introduced under European influence, played a bad trick with Moldovan liberal democrats: the impoverished majority, blaming the pro-Western forces for their social troubles, and eventually lined up behind the local Communist Party, chaired by ex-Moldavian USSR Interior Minister Vladimir Voronin.

During the following eight years of Voronin's presidency, Russia several times changed its approach to the Moldovan leadership. Warm relations were followed with economic pressure, after Mr. Voronin rejected the project of reunification of the two banks of Dniester in a form of federation, dubbed Dmitry Kozak's plan after Russia's Vice Prime Minister. At the same time, Kishinev was strongly pressured from the West, where he was expected to allow an international military contingent to enter the country, establishing a NATO-controlled regime and thus implementing the conditions of the CFE Treaty.

In 2005, Anatoly Chubais's liberal lobby used the tool of economic pressure to promote the Democratic Alliance of Moldova personified by Kishinev Mayor Seraphim Urechianu and ex-Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat. In Transdniester, Russian liberals, with support from Vesti TV, promoted the candidature of businessman Petru Tomaili. Despite huge financial injections and involvement of most qualified spin doctors, both campaigns turned a failure. In 2006, Pasat was accused by the Moldovan prosecution of state treason – ironically, for having sold ex-Soviet MIG aircrafts for a too small price to the United States, in the same effort of disarmament. Quite naturally, the scandal brought even more popularity to Mr. Voronin.

On March 18, during his visit to Moscow, Voronin agreed to sign the first ever joint agreement with Igor Smirnov that guaranteed further joint supervision of the reunification from both Russia and OSCE. The document was criticized by both Moscow conservative analysts and Western observers: the former were upset with the concession to OSCE while the latter were annoyed that the agreement did not involve directly the United States, the EU, and Ukraine.

Thus, the situation was pretty controversial. Vesti TV, that was hyperactive in both anti-Voronin and anti-Smirnov campaigns four years ago, decided to follow the old Chubais line, declaring that the post-election riot was a result of the "poor governance of Communist Voronin".

A more balanced interpretation was presented by once-influential political technologist Gleb Pavlovsky, who compared Mr. Voronin with Russian Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, explaining that his rule was "too dull" for the younger generation of Kishinev students, and that was allegedly the most important factor involved. At the same time, he reminded the romantic freedom-lovers that liberal ideas had once been invented for making statehood more stable and not for revolutions.

According to Mr. Pavlovsky's interpretation, after the Communist Party repeatedly won the majority in the Parliament, a cunning Mr. Voronin, expecting a youth riot, kept patiently waiting until they smash and rob the Parliament's building, unlike Boris Yeltsin in 1993. For a Russian with good memory, it is strange to hear this parallel from Mr. Pavlovsky who sympathized to the rioters of 1993 and changed his mind only after teaming up with Mr. Chubais in the anti-Zyuganov effort before the 1995 Russian Presidential elections.

TWEET, TWEET, TWEET

Describing Mr. Voronin as a cunning hardliner, Mr. Pavlovsky predicted that thee organizers of the riot will be thrown into terrible Moldovan jails. This version utterly contradicted to other professed Moscow opinion-mongers who featured Voronin, on the contrary, as a very weak person who allegedly mastered the whole bustle himself, so as to gain more sympathy from Moscow: in case of my failure, you'll get Romanian fascism here.

Meanwhile, Moldavian eyewitnesses of the riot described the situation from a far different viewpoint. Firstly, they indicated at multiple evidence that the riot had been mastered by the West, as it reproduced the typical style of "colored revolutions". Secondly, they were skeptical about forecasts of oppressions that might target the organizers of the rally that turned a pogrom, hinting that the central political figure of the protests, journalist Natalia Morari, would rather be "sacrificed" by the Western lobby in the same way as that had ealier happened in with Georgy Gongadze in Ukraine, and with Anna Politkovskaya in Russia.

Days later, Mr. Pavlovsky's forecast proved to be a failure: Ms.Morari was not seized; moreover, the prosecution officially admits that in fact, the rally was organized by another lady with the same surname. Meanwhile, Ms. Morari confesses on her blog that she was among the organizers of the "flash mob", but distances from the rioters and claims she did not expect that an event, supposed to involve 50 persons, would turn a rally of 15,000.

The so-called flash mob under the motto "I'm No Communist", as Ms. Morari admitted, was organized by a PR group with a not very Moldovan title Ц ThinkMoldova. Ms. Morari was also a member of an NGO named Hyde Park. The instrument she used for informing her friends (and by them, to inform others) was Twitter, the very blog used by Barack Obama's team for attaining youth votes during his presidential campaign.

Ms. Morari had earlier gained popularity as an author of a scandalous article in Moscow-based New Times magazine. Right on the eve of Vladimir Putin's visit to Vienna, the little-known Moldavian journalist shook the Russian media audience with a report about a criminal case launched in Austria on the subject of embezzlement of funds determined for implementation of the North Stream gas pipeline project. Other details of the scandalous article (as well as a number of later writings) revealed that the young lady is pretty informed of personal conflicts among particular figures in Kremlin.

This really reminded the story of Georgy Gongadze, a little-known journalist who suddenly skyrocketed to No.1 journalist due to specific background knowledge he exposed for several months until being killed by still unidentified persons, his body later found right at the moment when President Leonid Kuchma was going to oust then-PM Victor Yushchenko.

WHOSE "HAND"?

It was fairly expectable that after the riot in Great Assembly Square, some Moldovan politicians would blame the official Russia of organizing an anti-Voronin plot. Moreover, it was almost certain that these accusations would be raised by Jurie Rosca, chair of the Christian Democratic Popular Party Ц once a campaigner for Moldova's integration into Romania, and since 2007, unexpectedly, a partner of Vladimir Voronin.

Two years ago, Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili boasted of his personal role in arranging an alliance between Communists and Christian Democrats in Kishinev. At that time, Moldova, a side of GUAM along with Georgia, was seen by Mr. Saakashvili's US Republican backers as an ally against Moscow.

At that time, Ms. Morari was also loyal to the Moldovan regime, and even hailed the advantages of the Moldovan political system as compared with "Putin's regime". Radio Echo of Moscow, the leading Russian liberal mouthpiece, was also very friendly towards Mr. Voronin. Meanwhile, Voronin's foes from Valeriu Pasat's circle were welcome to Moscow as well, and well received in the Moscow University's Conservative Club. Victor Geosu, a member of the club, co-edited Moldavskie Vedmosti, the major Russian-speaking Kishinev paper, controlled by Mr. Pasat.

The situation changed in fact as recently as in the end of the last year, soon after Ms. Morari, a Moscow postgraduate but a Moldovan citizen, was rejected entry in Russia. The lady's colleague in The New Times magazine, Ilya Barabanov, had promptly registered marriage with Ms. Morari, but that didn't help.

In December 2008, Ms. Morari launched her ThinkMoldova project. On his lifejournal page, a person nicknamed barabanch declared that "Natasha (Morari) has initiated something great", and this venture will "definitely be a success". Meanwhile, Maria Gaidar, daughter of Yeltsin-time liberal reformist Yegor Gaidar (whom Russia owed dependence on the IMF for almost a decade), expressed her dreams on her own page, "Very soon, all this will be over, and freedom will triumph, and Natasha Morari will arrive--"

The ThinkMoldova project was co-initiated by Adrian Lupu, postgraduate of the Prague branch of the Georgetown University. This high school, and especially its team specializing in anthropological studies in Eurasia, is even more popular among Russian specifically informed "human right advocates" than Harvard. Though starting as a usual PR program, highlighting various parties Ц both Voronin- loyal and disloyal, the newly-founded NGO was noticed by the Scraps of Moscow blog, whom English language owes the neologism of "Putvedev". So M's authors were happy to indicate that some similar kind of a NGO was simultaneously launched in Transdniester by two citizens of Austria.

These details were rather overlooked than intentionally misinterpreted by Jurie Rosca. His belief that Mrs. Morari was an agent of an anti-Voronin plot, staged in Moscow, was based on Mrs. Morari's recently arranged show business partnership with Kirill Lucinsci, son of ex-CPSU Secretary Petru Lucinsci. The son of an influential father (the independent Moldova's President between Snegur and Voronin) had just chaired the TV-7 channel, the broadcaster of Gazprom-owned NTV channel. However, the top TV manager unexpectedly abandons the media company shortly after the start of the ThinkMoldova project, to provide political and financial assistance to the anti-Russian Democratic Party, chaired by ex-Parliament speaker Dumitru Diakov. Thus, the involvement of Gazprom's "hand" looks doubtful. It is more probable that Mr. Lucinsci, Jr. has received an imprest that was too attractive to be rejected.

Rosca's second clue is based on the assumption that Anatoly Chubais and Dmitry Medvedev belong to the same establishment Ц though by today, the former CEO of the Russian electricity corporation could be more correctly described as a partner of Larry Summers.

Anatoly Chubais and his partner Valeriu Pasat, whose newspaper concocted a "letter of support from prostitutes and drug addicts in support of Vladimir Voronin" in the perfect style of the anti-Zyuganov campaign in 1995, have always despised the President of Moldova. Their attitude to the official Kishinev had never changed, regardless from their own relationship with the Russian leadership. However, in this year (unlike 2005), Mr. Chubais' team did not have any direct economic pretexts, as well as support from Kremlin, for running an alternative campaign. Not surprisingly, the Democratic Coalition of Moldova fell apart.

Meanwhile, the Radio Echo of Moscow-centered circle of "human right advocates" that in fact includes a community of media-backers of top organized crime, has displayed a U-turn change of attitude towards the official Kishinev. Tracing back this evolution, we notice the first signs of irritation with Vladimir Voronin in last summer, when he neglects the GUAM summit and expressed intention to leave this organization; stronger irritation after Mr. Voronin arrives at the funeral ceremony of Patriarch Alexius II; and finally, complete negation after he ridicules the EU's Eastern Partnership Program, also adding that in case of necessity, his country would rather borrow from the People's Republic of China than from the IMF.

On April 1, four days before the elections, the cross-country gas pipeline, connecting Ukraine with EU states via Moldova, was exploded in several kilometers from Tiraspol. On April 9, a similar accident happened on the major Turkmenian pipeline. In both cases, the technical condition of the pipes was beyond suspicion. Could Gazprom, after the recent Ukrainian scandal and its unfavorable European echo, be interested in such a physical damage of reputation?

THE PATRONS OF HOMELESS GIRLS

In his comments, Gleb Pavlovsky expressed surprise both with the recklessness of Natalia Morari, who in fact sacrificed her journalist career for a doubtful political venture, and with the courage of President Voronin. Obviously, the expert meant the challenge, cast by the head of the poorest country in Europe, to the only billionaire family of Moldova.

In his public speech, Vladimir Voronin presented the evidence of involvement of Gabriel Stati, the earlier infallible playboy and owner of the luxurious Flamingo Club, in organizing youth riots with assistance from the numerous security personnel of his own, as well as his father's private companies. Regarding the influence of the Stati family in the business community, local observers were even more puzzled with the speed developed by Gabriel Stati, on his way out of Moldova, along with his armed escort.

The wealth of the family had started in the murky 1990s, when Anatol Stati, a former Soviet director, established Ascom Grup, a multidivisional business holding that extracts oil in Kazakhstan and gas in Turkmenistan. In 2007, Ascom-financed Liberal Party won the elections of the Kishinev Mayor, and hoped to promote their client, popular TV journalist Dorin Chirtoaca, to the post of President.

Gabriel Stati developed his talents in the more fashionable sphere of sports and entertainment. In his youth, he hoped to achieve a higher education in the United States. However, after getting into an affray in Houston within a month after arrival, he had to promptly leave America. Still, according to his version, this physical fight was occasionally watched by famous movie star Stephen Seagal, and thus they allegedly made friends.

Beside Dacia, the largest soccer club of the republic, Mr. Stati is involved in wrestling, in the present capacity of financial director of the International Thaekwondo Federation. This curious public institution easily penetrates all possible borders: one of its recent events was held in Pyongyang, North Korea.

A year ago, Mr. Stati was detained by Moldovan police after a new scuffle he initiated, this time at the stadium during a match between Dacia and another local club, Zimbru. At that time, the young businessman was far braver: "Let me go! You know I can buy the whole Moldova?" Ц he cried.

His influence was really great. Orthodox clergy asked the police to release the hooligan, explaining that Mr. Stati donates much to monasteries. Stati's company really patronized reconstruction of churches, and also launched a network of shops for the poor population, in partnership with an Israeli-born businessman Ilan Shor. However, these efforts were popularly believed to be an element of the election campaign. Meanwhile, the police exposed Ascom Group of illegal use of communication lines, enabling it to pay local tariffs for international talks, and thus saving at least 500mln lei.

Demonstration of sympathy to the poor did not prevent Mr. Stati from organizing show parties for filthy rich in his Flamingo Club. The abovementioned Ilan Shor took part in the effort as well. The glamour events, involving best European couturiers, represented fashion show developing into a striptease party. Mr. Shor's participation in these parties looked even more controversial, as this young man, belonging to the top twenty of the narrow business elite of the impoverished republic, positioned himself as the chair of the local branch of a very respectable educational organization, focused on international charity. The Chasidic network, ORT, dates back to 1880, when it was established as the Society for Popularization of Industrial and Agricultural Skills among Jews.

Contemporary charity is frequently strangely intertwined with glamour. The cadres of the strip tease show in Flamingo can be found on the "Pediatric Nursing" website of Acumen Foundation, engaged with "development of transformative businesses for the solution of the problem of poverty". The list of top sponsors starts with Andrea Soros-Colombel, the daughter of "philanthropist" billionaire George Soros and the president of Trace Foundation (that patronizes the "suffering people of Tibet").

ORT, as well as Acumen, extends its activity far beyond Europe, reaching out to Eastern Africa and Central Asia. The same is true about Ascom Grup's business that spreads to Southern Sudan, the area that enjoys special protection from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with sympathy from Israel and the current UN General Secretary.

In a desperate country like Moldova, where it is similarly easy to threaten a witness and to buy a journalist, the background of the glamour-and-charity combination is even unnecessary to conceal. For instance, when international education activists arrive in a district orphanage, the local administration promptly organizes a dancing competition among girl teams. What human material could be more convenient as a potential commodity than homeless kids? The network's activities in Central Asia were followed with similarly dark rumors, related to specific agriculture that provides fashionable clubs and brothels with the product that carries the client away from mundane reality.

Baroness Emma Nicholson, chair of OSCE mission in Moldova, concentrates her international activity (beside strategic missions in Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Kashmir) in patronizing the poor as well, though strictly opposing international adoption. This view quite corresponds with the interests of shadowy business that prefers the patronized material to never achieve the happiness of a family.

THE EURASIAN BATTLEFIELD

The Stati family was deeply rooted in Moldova's political establishment. Gabriel is married to the younger daughter of the abovementioned Dumitru Diakov. Her elder sister had earlier got into trouble: her own husband, a citizen of Lebanon, was jailed for drug trafficking Ц but the divorce of the couple erased this unpleasant page of biography.

Thus, Gabriel Stati was looking forward to the fight for the presidential post with optimism, and the outcome of a well-prepared coup d'etat was likely to work into his hands. The whole toolkit for the venture, months earlier dubbed "oak revolution" (and ridiculed in Transdniester as "mamalyga revolution", after a popular kind of porridge), was at hand. But some crucial element was put out of order.

Though possessing a lot of influential patrons, Gabriel Stati was forced to escape. Obviously, the police and prosecution of the small nation possessed some kind of too sensitive material about the business family. Quite naturally, Gabriel Stati traveled to the adjacent Ukraine, where he obviously hoped to stay for some time before the clouds above his head melt due to his father's intervention. But on the next day, he was detained by Ukraine's State Security Service (SBU).

Gabriel Stati's name was well known to Ukrainian police officials. His close friend Adlan Shishkhanov Ц whom he tried to protect, using his fists in the mentioned episode during a soccer game Ц had been under investigation in Ukraine on the subject of extortion.

The protection from ORT Ц despite its influence in Ukraine Ц did not help as well. After all, not everyone in Ukraine is pleased with the perspective of endorsement of ex-Supreme Rada speaker Arseny Yatsenyuk to the post of President, even in case he is patronized by Chasidic czar Lev Leviev.

Next day after Gabriel's arrest in Odessa, Anatol Stati announces that Ascom Group ceases activity in Moldova, and escapes to Bucharest. Meanwhile, Baroness Emma Nicholson, who had just claimed that the Moldovan elections were rigged by 15%, promptly corrects herself, admitting that was a miscalculation.

Pro Europa Association, partner of Soros Fund-Moldova, continues to insist that the riot in Kishinev was organized by Vladimir Voronin himself. The "human right advocating" facility directly associates the "fake unrest" with the recent talks of Voronin and Smirnov in Moscow. The Association's spokesman is especially alarmed with the rumors that Vladimir Voronin, whose second presidential tenure is about to expire, has picked Gen. Mayor Valentin Mezhinsky, his former colleague from state police and the former director of the Center of Organized Crime Investigations, as his successor. This option, according to the neurotized intellectuals, is "menacing the Moldovan statehood", as Mr. Mezhinsky's brother serves in the Ministry of Interior of the breakaway Transdniester Republic.

Soros's cronies have in fact exposed themselves and the Western lobby generally, revealing that in fact, this lobby is not at all interested in reunification of Moldova, contrary to official statements of fifteen years. The background of the fear is obvious: they've realized that the reunification is obvious, but it may be not pro-Western!

Curiously, Pro Europa is frantically distancing from the Slati family. Moreover, the NGO's website reports that Gabriel Stati is a freemason(!!), as well as Liberal Party MP Anatol Salaru (former official representative of Ascom Group in Tajikistan), and that both persons are Vladimir Putin's agents, involved in a scenario of "unseating Romania's President Trajan Basescu"!!

Juergen Roth, the renowned German criminologist, has found himself even in a more stupid situation. In The Red Bosses, his detailed documentary of Russian mafia, he had mentioned the name of a top Uzbek dealer Salim Abduvaliyev, controlling cotton production, related shadow trade, along with sports. In December 2008, the Moscow-issued glossy magazine The Elite of the Society, owned by this very person, presented Gabriel Stati as the greatest charity activist and businessman, "a real patriot" of Moldova. This kind of a personality now appears to be behind the anti-North Stream "human right advocate" Natalia Morari, whose "human tragedy" (i.e. separation from the fictitious spouse) was just hailed in the novel "investigation" of Boris Reitschuster dubbed "The New Kremlin Boss" that cracks upon Dmitry Medvedev and is introduced by Mr. Roth as "a perfect illustration of the real situation in Russia".

Logically, Mr. Roth should applaud to Vladimir Voronin who was brave enough to challenge an oligarch comparable to soccer king Rinat Akhmetov in Ukraine Ц or to Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Russia. Is the famous investigator able to overcome his "human right" obsessions, or these obsessions are just a cover for a direct instruction to smear Russia?

After the vote is recounted, on Vladimir Voronin's own initiative, and the Communist Party is repeatedly proven to be the winner, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev finally expresses his view Ц as now, he cannot be blamed for influencing the outcome: "These so-called hooligans attacked state buildings and replaced national flags with flags of another country. What is that, if not a subversion organized from outside?"

Vladimir Voronin is lucky. Two years earlier, the pogrom on the Great Assembly Square would have resulted in a full-fledged and bloody "oak revolution", rather following the pattern of the Lebanese "cedar revolution", the drug and diamond background of which must be perfectly familiar to Baroness Nicholson, member of the Freedom House' International Solidarity Committee. But in the times of crisis, some movers and shakers of Eurasia have lost their earlier power. For instance, the business empire of diamond king Lev Leviev, patron of international charities across Central Asia. His interests in the area, as well as those of Merhav Group owner Yossi Maiman, a former Mossad officer in Africa, are a subject of a neurotic activity of the Israeli Foreign Ministry that promptly dispatched a new Ambassador to Turkmenistan on the eve of the official visit of the Chinese National Petroleum Company.

Back in a 1994 interview in Den (Day) weekly, Afghan veteran Victor Filatov claimed that Mr. Leviev and Mr. Maiman can be ousted from Central Asia only by the Chinese. This is true for some other places of the world Ц particularly for Moldova, one of the few nations legitimately dominated by a Communist Party. In February, China confirmed its intention to issue a $1 billion loan to Moldova for 15 years under a 3% interests paid since the fourth year, for modernization of road infrastructure. "My country is committed to cooperate with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization", Voronin said in his March interview.

Russian specialists have indicated that China is unlikely to advertise the start of its active foreign policy: it would be started as soon as the state leadership considers the economy to be enough prepared for relevant risks. The current development in Thailand, where the former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, a Chinese national, overthrown in 2006 by the US drug trade lobby, is going to return to power, is the second proof that this groundbreaking shift is happening. The first proof was the failure of the "oak revolution" in Moldova.


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