Moldova’s pro-Western government resigned after a turbulent 18 months in power marked by economic turmoil and the fallout from Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine.
In the latest tensions with Moscow over the war, the government said shortly before Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita announced her resignation that a Russian missile had violated Moldovan airspace and called the Russian ambassador to protest.
President Maia Sandu accepted Gavrilita’s decision on Friday and appointed her defense adviser Dorin Recean as prime minister. She has given no sign that she will abandon her pro-Western policies, which include seeking accession to the European Union.
“Thank you very much for your enormous sacrifice and efforts to lead the country in a time of so many crises,” Sandu wrote on Facebook.
“Despite the unprecedented challenges, the country was managed responsibly, with a lot of attention and dedicated work. We have stability, peace and development – where others wanted war and bankruptcy.”
Sandu said she wants to focus on rebuilding key areas such as Moldova’s economy and the justice sector.
“I know that we need unity and a lot of work to overcome the difficult period we are facing,” she said. “The difficulties of 2022 have delayed some of our plans, but they have not stopped us.”
Recean, a 48-year-old economist who served as interior minister between 2012 and 2015, will have 15 days to form a new government to present to parliament for a vote.
He said that he plans to continue striving for EU membership and that his government’s priorities will be order and discipline, breathing new life into the economy, and peace and stability.
Energy blackmail, huge inflation
Gavrilita’s reign as prime minister was marked by a long series of problems, many of which stemmed from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These include an acute energy crisis after Moscow dramatically cut supplies to Moldova and soaring inflation.
The former Soviet republic of 2.5 million also saw an influx of Ukrainian refugees last year. It has suffered blackouts following Russian airstrikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, struggled to end its dependence on Russian gas, and recently saw a Russian wartime missile cross its skies.
Gavrilita said that no one expected that her government “would have to manage so many crises caused by Russian aggression in Ukraine.”
“I took over the government with an anti-corruption, pro-development and pro-European mandate at a time when corruption schemes captured all institutions and the oligarchs felt untouchable,” Gavrilita said. “We were immediately faced with energy blackmail, and those who did it hoped that we would give in.”
“The bet of the enemies of our country was that we would behave like the previous governments, which abandoned energy interests, which betrayed the national interest in exchange for short-term benefits,” she added.
A sharp increase in prices, particularly of Russian gas, led to street protests last year in which protesters demanded the resignation of the government and Sandu.
The protests, organized by the party of exiled opposition politician Ilan Shor, marked the most serious political challenge to Sanda since her landslide election victory in 2020 on a pro-European and anti-corruption platform.
Chisinau described the protests as part of a Kremlin-sponsored campaign to destabilize the government.
“I believe in the Moldovan people. I believe in Moldova,” said Gavrilita. “I believe that we will be able to overcome all difficulties and challenges.”
Join to start the EU
Gavrilita became prime minister in August 2021 after her pro-European Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) secured a majority in parliament with a mandate to clean up corruption.
EU leaders accepted Moldova as a candidate for membership last year in a diplomatic triumph for Sanda. The government planned reforms to speed up accession to the 27-member bloc and work on diversifying the energy supply.
Russia, which has troops in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, bristled at the prospect of the former Soviet republics joining the EU, and Moldovan intelligence confirmed on Thursday allegations by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Russia had acted to destabilize Moldova.
Moldova’s foreign ministry sharply criticized Moscow after it summoned its ambassador over a Russian missile it said flew through Moldovan airspace before entering Ukrainian airspace on Friday.
“We resolutely reject the latest hostile actions and statements against Moldova, which is absolutely unacceptable for our people,” the ministry said in a statement.
We call on the Russian Federation to stop the military aggression against the neighboring country, which has led to numerous human casualties and material damage.