Newly elected head of Autonomous region of Gagauzia Evghenia Gutul (C) attends her official inuaguration ceremony in Comrat, Moldova. EPA-EFE/DUMITRU DORU


Moldova under pressure as pro-Russian governor installed in autonomous region


The inauguration in Moldova of a new pro-Russian governor may spell fresh trouble for the embattled nation.

Evghenia Guțul officially became the new leader or “başkan” of the autonomous Moldovan region of Gagauzia on July 19.

In her inaugural speech, Guțul expressed her desire to improve Moldova’s relations with Russia and thanked Ilan Șor, a convicted oligarch exiled in Israel, for his support.

The Moldovan Government believes Șor to be a lead funder of Russian attempts to destabilise and possibly even overthrow the country.

His political party, named ȘOR, was banned by the Moldovan courts in 2016 for “promoting the interests of a foreign state”, namely Russia.

There were no official representatives from the pro-West government of Moldova at Guțul’s inauguration ceremony. It is the first time since 1993 such has happened, with one observer commenting it signalled increasingly cold relations between Moldova’s capital Chișinău and Gaugazia, in the east of the country.

The region is home to 140,000 Turkic-speaking and Orthodox Christian Gagauz people who, besides their own language, mainly speak Russian. Gagauzia also has its own parliament.

Speaking to the crowd in the Gagauzian city of Camrat, Guțul thanked Șor not only for backing her governor bid and campaign but also for “not abandoning us despite pressure from Chișinău”.

Șor will probably have to shell out a lot of cash if Guțull is to live up her campaign promises, observers say. Among her campaign pledges to the Gaugazian public are the building of a €100 million airport, raising public salaries by 30 per cent and the construction of an amusement park.

Guțul is said to have already received funds. A Moldovan reporter at the inauguration noted the apparent lavishness of the ceremony, at which several Turkish soap-opera stars were present. The journalist said he was told the money did not come from the Gagauzian Government budget.

Observers say the situation may now further imperil Moldova, wedged between Romania and Ukraine, which currently finds itself caught in a power struggle between Russia and the West.

Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the pro-Western government led by President Maia Sandu applied to join the European Union. That prompted Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to warn that Moldova would become “another Ukraine” if it continued on its EU path.

In February this year, Sandu announced that she had been handed a document by Ukraine that outlined “Russian plans to destabilise and overthrow the country”, allegedly by creating discontent through disinformation campaigns and igniting national crisis with a series of terror attacks.

A week after Sandu’s announcement, huge rallies shook the capital as Moldovans protested at skyrocketing energy prices.

Moldova is also said to be extremely wary of potential splits across its regions, especially as its eastern border is currently occupied by the Russia-backed breakaway region of Transnistria, where more than 1,000 Russian troops are based as nominal “peacekeepers”.