The European Commission’s endorsement for EU membership talks with Moldova and Ukraine signals a significant stride in Chișinău’s aspirations. President Sandu’s proactive discussions with key EU nations, including Denmark and the UK, further underscore Moldova’s commitment to European integration. The boost in electricity trade among ENTSO-E, Moldova, and Ukraine aims to fortify regional energy security for the 2023/2024 winter. Moldova’s accession to the SEDM signifies a pivotal moment in Euro-Atlantic integration, accompanied by strengthened defense collaborations with France, Czechia, and Italy. Despite Russian interference, President Sandu’s pro-European party secured 40% of votes, reflecting steadfast public support amid a lingering threat. Additionally, Transnistria faces challenges, from a suspicious survey on a notional “Russian military base” to a severe snowstorm revealing its operational limitations.
- European Commission recommends EU states to open membership talks with Moldova (and Ukraine), marking a major milestone in Chișinău’s aspirations. President Sandu advanced Moldova’s EU integration discussions with Denmark, the UK, Austria, Slovenia, and Ukraine. Denmark is the latest EU member to announce that it would open an embassy in Chișinău.
- ENTSO-E, Moldova, and Ukraine boost electricity trade to enhance regional energy security for the 2023/2024 winter. In addition, Chișinău increased the requirements for energy stocks and discussed measures to strengthen cybersecurity in energy infrastructure.
- Moldova’s accession to the SEDM marks a milestone in Euro-Atlantic integration while continuing to divest from the Russian-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Defense collaboration with France, Czechia, and Italy deepens. The Moldovan National Army (MNA) received the last Piranha 3 H increment from Germany, material military aid from France and continued joint exercises with Romania.
- President Sandu’s pro-European PAS won 40% of the votes for mayors, city councilors, and district and village councils despite heavy Russian informational and monetary interference. Chișinău extended the state of emergency as the threat level to Moldova remains significant.
- Transnistrians were polled about the possibility of a “Russian military base” in the region. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Security Council Secretary Patrushev launched threats and accusations against Moldova, signaling a concerted political-informational campaign against Chișinău’s EU aspirations. A severe snowstorm paralyzed Transnistria, forcing the separatist military into limited deployment and highlighting its inability to respond.
SITREP: 1-30 NOVEMBER 2023
EUROPEAN INTEGRATION AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS
President Maia Sandu and Danish parliamentarians discussed Moldovan-Danish cooperation and EU accession in Copenhagen on 29NOV2023. President Sandu welcomed Denmark’s decision to open an embassy in Chișinău next year, emphasizing its importance for deepening cooperation, and thanked for ongoing support in EU accession negotiations. Denmark is the latest EU country to announce that it would open an embassy in Moldova, after the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, and Spain took a similar decision in 2023.
President Sandu discussed Moldova’s and Ukraine’s EU accession with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and European Council President Charles Michel on 21NOV. Emphasizing EU integration as a crucial goal for peace and development, President Sandu commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Revolution of Dignity (Euromaidan) in Kyiv, praising Ukrainian heroes past and present. She also urged the free world to support Ukraine until victory.
President Sandu discussed Moldovan-Norwegian cooperation with a delegation from the Norwegian Parliament’s Committee for Foreign Affairs and Defense in Chișinău on 20NOV. President Sandu highlighted the importance of bilateral economic relations and the potential impact of ratifying the free trade agreement with EFTA, creating opportunities for Moldovan producers.
Norway provided EUR 42 million in non-reimbursable financial assistance through the Nansen Programme to aid Ukraine and Moldova.
President Sandu received the new UK Foreign Minister David Cameron during his brief stop in Chișinău, on 17NOV, after visiting Ukraine. Expressing gratitude for British support to Moldova and Ukraine, President Sandu highlighted its significance for regional security and European stability. The talks also covered bilateral cooperation and joint efforts in combating corruption.
President Maia Sandu welcomed Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar in Chișinău on 16NOV. Discussions covered the situation in Ukraine, with President Sandu appealing for continued support, and gratitude was expressed for Austria and Slovenia’s solidarity and financing of development projects in Moldova.
Popescu made a visit to Paris, conveying thanks to President Emmanuel Macron and IMF Director Kristalina Georgieva for their unwavering support, on 11NOV. Discussions with French officials included progress leading to the European Commission’s negotiation recommendation. Popescu highlighted bilateral agenda items, thanked France for supporting defense reforms, and discussed a forthcoming cooperation agreement.
Major milestone: The European Commission’s 2023 Enlargement Package recommends opening accession negotiations with Moldova and Ukraine, acknowledging their progress, on 8NOV. The report emphasizes the merit-based nature of the accession process, contingent on objective achievements. The Commission suggests the Council adopts negotiating frameworks for Ukraine and Moldova upon key measure adoption. The Commission commits to reporting progress to the Council by March 2024.
ENTSO-E has increased the electricity trade capacity from Continental Europe to Ukraine and Moldova by 500 MW, reaching 1,700 MW on 29NOV. The decision follows the successful synchronization of energy systems and security simulations. ENTSO-E President Zbyněk Boldiš applauds the cooperation with Ukrenergo, emphasizing improved regional energy security and market efficiency.
The emergency synchronization on March 16, 2022, significantly contributed to Moldova’s energy independence amid geopolitical challenges, as highlighted by Energy Minister Victor Parlicov. This development enhances system stability and supports long-term reforms in Moldova’s energy sector.
Moldova advances in fulfilling commitments outlined in the Financing Memorandum with the French Development Agency (FDA), as announced in a Coordination Council meeting on 28NOV. FDA has pledged a €40 million loan to Moldova for state budget needs, focusing on infrastructure, energy efficiency, and renewable energy reforms.
The comprehensive roadmap outlines 36 actions across 6 phases to be completed by 2028, aiming to accelerate Moldova’s transition to green energy and achieve climate neutrality by 2050. State Secretary Cristina Pereteatcu emphasizes the loan’s role in promoting sustainable development.
MoE and Moldovan energy companies discussed the need to strengthen cyber security in the energy field on 15NOV. Recognizing the critical need to reinforce information systems, a working session with energy company representatives and authorities emphasized the urgency of training IT managers. Cybersecurity, crucial for protecting against potential political manipulation, was underscored by Secretary of State Cristina Pereteatcu. Energy Minister Victor Parlicov emphasized the importance of securing critical infrastructure promptly, involving other cybersecurity institutions.
Amid the accelerating digital transformation, discussions included creating a cyber “protection shield” and developing strategies for data security and IT platform usage in safeguarding digital systems.
The Moldovan Government has raised the obligation for gas stocks to 15% of the annual consumption, in line with EU regulations on 1NOV. These amendments aim to enhance gas supply security, complying with EU directives on cross-border gas transport and creating a legal framework for exceptional situations. The government will mandate gas suppliers to store a specified amount, mitigating price fluctuations and ensuring stable winter prices for consumers.
The changes also introduce the equity component, discouraging market migration. Developed with support from USAID and the EU, the amendments align with international best practices.
ECONOMY & INVESTMENT
The European Commission announced that it would provide Moldov an E20 million grant for the rehabilitation of the 446 km railway corridor Vălcineț-Ocnița-Bălți-Ungheni-Chișinău-Căinari, on 29NOV. This initiative, part of the European plan to enhance import-export transport for Ukraine, aims to replace sleepers, rails, and ballast on critical rail sections.
The North-South railway corridor is crucial for Moldova, connecting key cities with Giurgiulesti and other ports in the Danube. The project’s implementation is expected to enhance railway safety, increase train speeds, and reduce rotation times.
The Moldovan government will maintain favorable tax incentives for IT companies as announced on 26NOV. The provision includes a seven percent single sales tax for resident companies in IT parks, aiming to boost sector development and competitiveness. The special tax regime exempts IT companies from various taxes and contributes to retaining skilled professionals within the country
The IT industry now constitutes nearly seven percent of Moldova’s GDP and surpasses traditional sectors like winemaking in exports.
Moldova’s business environment gains access to various European funds following the approval of a draft law in a plenary session on 24NOV. The law ratifies the agreement between Moldova and the EU for participation in the Single Market Program, with a focus on food safety, consumer protection, and support for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Moldova will benefit from financial instruments, expertise, and good practices, with a total budget of €4.2 billion for 2021-2027. The agreement was signed on 8SEP2023.
DEFENSE: MODERNIZATION, READINESS AND CAPACITY BUILDING
Moldovan Defense Minister Anatolie Nosatîi ratified Moldova’s accession to the South-Eastern Europe Defense Ministerial (SEDM) Process during a SEDM ministerial meeting in Ankara on 22NOV. The signing of the ascension document marks a significant step in Moldova’s efforts to further integrate into the Euro-Atlantic ecosystem and move away from Russia and CIS.
SEDM members include Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Greece, Italy, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, the United States, Turkey, and Ukraine. Romania will hold the rotating presidency of SEDM, including the Coordination Committee and Political-Military Steering Committee, from 2023 to 2025.
Nosatîi and Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová discussed advancing military relations, supporting the MNA’s modernization, and enhancing Moldova’s defense capabilities, in Chișinău on 17NOV. Minister Černochová highlighted Moldova’s high priority for the Czech Republic, emphasizing cooperative efforts, exemplified by the recent inauguration of the Defense Attaché Office in Chișinău. Both ministers appreciated bilateral collaboration in combating disinformation, further solidifying the Moldova-Czech defense partnership.
The MNA received the last Piranha-3 H batch from Germany on 15NOV. Military Camp 142 hosted a reception ceremony which was attended by Nosatîi, German Ambassador to Moldova Margret Uebber, representatives of General Dynamics European Land Systems-FWW GmbH, and foreign military attaches.
The first batch, of three vehicles, came in January 2023, followed by two vehicles delivered in October. With the third and last increment, the MNA now operates a fleet of 19 Piranha-3 infantry fighting vehicles (IFV).
The Piranhas have been delivered as part of a Moldovan-German defense agreement signed in 2019. The vehicles will be operated by the 22nd “Blue Helmet” Battalion, which participates in peacekeeping operations.
Nosatîi discussed the MNA’s modernization and strategic goals with his Italian counterpart, Guido Crosetto, on 9NOV. Nosatîi expressed gratitude for Italy’s logistical support in peacekeeping missions and the exchange of security and defense expertise. The ministers addressed bilateral military cooperation, emphasizing collaboration in peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Lebanon. The visit aims to strengthen the Moldova-Italy defense partnership, established in 2006.
Moldova received the first batch of material military assistance from France on 10NOV. The delivery consisted of personal equipment, logistical supplies, light infantry weapons, and ammunition. The care packages were airlifted to Chisinau by a French Air Force A400M.
Moldova and France are set to enhance their defense collaboration with a new agreement. On 8NOV, the Moldovan Cabinet of Ministers approved negotiations on the draft, aiming to update the legal framework for contemporary needs. The proposed cooperation covers defense policy, armed forces reform, experience exchange, human resources, training, international missions, airspace control, logistics, and more. The agreement, broader in scope, aims to intensify collaboration and modernize the MNA.
Note that France pledged in early 2023 to supply at least one Ground Master (GM) 200 air surveillance radar, produced by Thales, to Moldova. In October 2023, Moldova and France signed a letter of intent (LOI) to procure one GM200.
MNA forces participated in the “Joint Combined Exchange Training-2023” (JCET) exercise at the Bulboaca training range between 28OCT and 3NOV2023. The event was attended by MNA Commander Brigadier General Eduard Ohladciuc, Deputy Chief of the General Staff Brigadier General Sergiu Cirimpei, military attachés, as well as the commander of the Romanian 52nd Special Operations Battalion “Băneasa-Otopeni”, Lt.Col. Vasile Moldovan.
State Secretary Valeriu Mija received a meeting from Brg. Gen. Chris Ordway, head of the Euro-Atlantic Security Department, and Charlotte Gage, Deputy Head of Policy of the United Kingdom, on 2NOV2023. The head of the Transformation Directorate, Gheorghe Oarza, as well as the British military attaché, squadron commander Matthew Ellis Eager, also participated in the discussions.
The officials addressed aspects of the Moldovan-British bilateral cooperation in the military segment, as well as the progress made by the Ministry of Defense in the process of transformation and modernization of the National Army.
Moldova held local mayoral elections on 5 and 19 November 2023, with President Sandu’s pro-European Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) winning the most votes.
- PAS won 40% of the votes for mayors, city councilors, and district and village councils.
- In the mayoral race, PAS won 32.5% of mayoral seats (291), followed by the pro-Russian Socialist Party with 16.1% (144).
OSCE alleged that campaigning for the elections was dogged by an “influx of illicit and foreign funds and the monetary incentives used to influence voters’ choice”. Chișinău accused Moscow of paying $5mn to businesses operated by Ilan Șor. Șor was reported to have left Israel, where he is avoiding capture from Moldovan authorities, on 6NOV.
On 24 November, Moldovan authorities extended the state of emergency for another 30 days. The extension came into effect as of 1DEC2023. The state of emergency has been under a continuous extension since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24FEB2022.
RUSSIA AND TRANSNISTRIA
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov lashed against Moldova at the OSCE ministerial meeting in Skopje on 30 November 2023. He accused Moldova of “killing the 5+2 format” and that the country is “being readied as the next victim in the hybrid war that the West unleashed against Russia.”
Moldova’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) issued a statement in relation to Lavrov’s remarks calling them a series of hostile actions that Russia has been trying to impose on Moldova.
Note that Lavrov’s statement is well aligned with Patrushev’s remark from 9Nov2023, indicating a concerted political-informational attack on Moldova’s European aspirations. Lavrov and Patrushev both bring unfounded accusations, criticize the Moldovan government, and frame Moldova as a victim of the West. On the flip side, Russia may be trying to broadcast a veiled threat to Moldova.
A severe snowstorm forced the Transnistrian military to deploy for road clearing operations and posed great difficulties for the PMR “government” between 26-28 November 2023. At least two military bulldozers on a BAT-2 engineering vehicles were photographed clearing the Tiraspol-Malayesti road, and an area east of Dubasari. The pictures were taken in clear weather, suggesting that their activity was only possible after the snowstorm had passed.
Based on local reports, the so-called “Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic” (PMR) defense and interior security ministries struggled to cope with the bad weather, leading to road closures, villages being cut off from the rest of Moldova, and medical emergencies.
Interruption in the gas supply has also been reported. So-called PMR president Krasnoselsky promised to establish heating points for the winter ahead.
Transnistrian survey: “45% of respondents are in favor of creating a Russian military base in Transnistria; 35.9% opted to maintain the status quo” (23 November 2023). Organized by the Center for the Study of Peacekeeping, the survey was likely intended as an information operation against Chisianau and the West. However, it may have also served the purpose to indeed testing the local sentiment regarding an increased Russian military presence.
If the survey is connected to a real intention to reshuffle or expand the Operational Group of Russian Forces (OGRF) in Transnistria, Russia could seek to establish a formal military base in the separatist region. This base would in addition to the Cobasna ammo dump and the operational headquarters in Tiraspol. The OGRF would need to receive more budget in 2024 for the work and likely for salaries if the contingent is to expand. The only option to expand the OGRF is through local recruitment, as the war in Ukraine is preventing troops from being transported from mainland Russia into Transnistria.
Disclaimer: Note that the OGRF is internationally considered an occupying force, illegally stationed on Moldovan sovereign territory. The OGRF is not the same with the Russian contigent to the Joint Peacekeeping Force, which is authorized under the peace treaty that concluded the war in Transnistria.
The PMR celebrated several military anniversaries throughout November:
- Russian Military Peacekeeper Day (25NOV2023).
- Artillerymen’s holiday (19NOV2023): PMR defense minister Oleg Obruchkov praised the Transnistrian “missile and artillery forces.” PMR Ministry of Defense release said the “missile forces and artillery are the main means of engaging the enemy during combat operations.”
- Military Intelligence Day (4NOV2023): Obruchkov held a speech and handed out anniversary medals to military intelligence troops.
PMR officials continue to call for a return to the 5+2 format with OSCE and Moldova, with the latest statement in this regard made by PMR foreign minister Vitaly Ignatiev on 24NOV2023. Note that the 5+2 format has been defunct since 2019.
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev took a jab at Moldova during the 11th CIS meeting in Moscow on 9NOV2023. He claimed there are human rights violations in Moldova and warned Chișinău that their given current course of “rejection of sovereignty and national identity,” the country may become “another victim of the Western colonialist policy.” Note that Moldova is in the process of exiting the CIS and has terminated a series of agreements with the Russian-led block in the past year.
The Moldova/Transnistria Situation Reports (SitReps) are a response to the intelligence obtained by Ukraine and Moldova indicating that Russia plans to overthrow the democratically elected government in Chișinău and maintain the threat of Transnistria high for Ukraine. Drawing from open-source information (OSINF), the newsletter will provide periodic updates on security-relevant developments and analysis. See previous sitreps under the dedicated Moldova & Transnistria section on T-Intelligence and Linkedin, and our threatcast on a possible Russian operation to link up with Transnistria.
DISCLAIMER: T-Intelligence does not recognize the existence of the entity self-proclaimed as “Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic (PMR)”. We remind readers that in line with international law, the territory left of the Dnister River, referred to geographically as “Transnistria,” is Moldovan territory. No United Nations member, including Russia, has recognized the existence of the PMR.
by Vlad Sutea and Will Kingston-Cox