Pro-Russian Dodon Blames ‘All Sides’ For Ukraine War, Won’t Pledge To Accept Vote Results In Moldova

By Iryna Romaliyska June 26, 2024

BRATISLAVA — Igor Dodon, the pro-Russian leader of Moldova’s largest opposition party and a former president, won’t commit to running in Moldova’s upcoming presidential election as he looks to spearhead the defeat of incumbent Maia Sandu and her pro-EU agenda.

In a wide-ranging interview with Current Time in Bratislava last week, Dodon blamed “all sides” for the war in Ukraine and said of Moscow’s territorial claims that only “the results of peace talks will make it clear where the war will stop, for both Russia and Ukraine.”

He accused Sandu and the current Moldovan government of “violating” Moldova’s neutral status and suggested that if he were in power he would shut off the country as any sort of conduit for the supply of weapons to Ukraine.

Dodon, 49, also declined to rescind a previous threat, made during a visit to Russia, to refuse to recognize the results if Sandu emerges victorious in the October presidential election in the landlocked country of about 3.5 million people sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania.

“If we see that there is falsification, and we record it, of course, we will make some decisions about it,” Dodon told Current Time. “And whether it will lead to the fact that the elections won’t be recognized or will lead to other consequences, we’ll see. It’s too early to talk about that now.”

With two months to go before official candidate registration begins for the October 20 vote, recent polls show Sandu with 30 to 35 percent support compared to Dodon’s 16 percent, making him her closest current potential competitor among likely candidates.

A former prime minister and founder of the liberal Party of Action and Solidarity, the 52-year-old Sandu derailed Dodon’s presidential reelection bid in a 2020 landslide pledging to accelerate pro-EU reforms and curb corruption.

Sandu has doggedly backed Kyiv and pursued energy independence from Russia and greater integration with the West amid mounting fallout from Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine on Moldova’s politics, security, and economy.

Sandu has repeatedly demanded an end to the stubborn presence in Moldova’s breakaway Transdniester region of hundreds of Russian troops at a Soviet-era weapons depot.

EU candidate Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest states, achieved a milestone this week when the bloc on June 25 officially launched what are expected to be years of membership negotiations with Chisinau, alongside Kyiv.

In his Current Time interview, Dodon, who heads the Party of Socialists (PSRM), accused Sandu of overplaying her hand and alienating a significant segment of voters on the political left.

“Maia Sandu has characteristics that make her, in my opinion, a more serious dictator than others you think are dictators or they call Russia and so on,” Dodon said.

He accused Sandu of relying too much on the West and the diaspora for support, singling out the United States and the EU’s leadership.

“I’ve spoken about this openly,” Dodon said, “without the help of these two geopolitical players, Maia Sandu wouldn’t have won and wouldn’t have held power up to now.”

There are an estimated 1.5 million Moldovan nationals abroad, with half a million in Russia and most of the rest in the West. Moldova has about 3 million registered voters in all.

Dodon alleged that postal voting and other unspecified changes in the run-up to voting signaled that Sandu and her “Western handlers” lack confidence and are “in agony.”

Moldova’s parliament in April approved postal voting from abroad in an amendment criticized by most of the opposition, although it is limited to democratic countries with which Chisinau has diplomatic relations and which are not embroiled in military conflicts.

Dodon has repeatedly advocated improving ties with what he describes as traditional allies China and Russia, including restoring what he has long described as a “strategic partnership” with Moscow.

He said the war in Ukraine was “a tragedy for the Ukrainian people…[and] for the Russian people.” It was a tragedy for Moldovans, too, he said, “because for us, both Ukrainians and Russians are brothers.”

Dodon called Moldova a “neutral country militarily,” adding, “We condemn war…. We believe that the war should be ended as soon as possible through negotiations.”

Asked who started the war in Ukraine, Dodon cited the Euromaidan unrest that ousted Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president in 2014 but made no mention of Russia’s covert occupation of Crimea and support for Ukrainian separatists. “I think all sides are to blame for this,” he said.

“Unfortunately we have reached a situation where hundreds of thousands of men, women, children, as you said, are being killed — on both one side and the other side — so the responsible politicians must stop [it],” he said. “Tomorrow, the day after tomorrow…the Ukrainian side and the Russian side will sit down.”

Asked if he would prevent Ukraine’s allies from supplying Kyiv with weapons to defend itself, Dodon said, “I would act according to the constitutional status of Moldova, which clearly states that we are a neutral state, and a neutral state should not interfere in this.”

Sandu “will have answer for this in the future,” he added.

Article 11 of Moldova’s 1994 constitution proclaims the country’s “permanent neutrality” and excludes “the stationing of any foreign military troops on its territory.”

Despite repeated calls from Sandu and other senior officials, Russia has maintained hundreds of troops at a former weapons depot in Transdniester, whose separatist leadership maintains close ties to Moscow.

Dodon said there are nothing but “pro-Western opinions left on [Moldovan] television,” but that “Russia has more opportunities than the West” to influence elections.

“Of course,” he added, “it would be good if we were left alone, by both Russia and the West, so that we can decide for ourselves.” He vowed to “restore normal relations” with Putin and Russia “despite what is happening in Ukraine.”

Transdniester is a heavily Russian-speaking sliver of land that has been controlled by pro-Russian separatists since a war in 1992. The autonomous region of Gagauzia is populated largely by ethnic Turkish Gagauz who speak Russian and have adopted Russian Orthodox Christianity.

On the coming election, Dodon declined to say whether he plans another run for the presidency but added, “It’s clear that according to all the polls, it could be Dodon because that’s what the polls show, that would be the best option for the Socialist Party.”

Dodon said that if no other “nonpolitical, apolitical candidate” with sufficient support emerges in the next two weeks, his Socialists “will nominate their candidate from within the party leadership.”

The monthlong registration period for presidential candidates begins on August 20.

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/dodon-ukraine-war-wont- pledge-to-accept-vote-results-moldova/33011114.html

Copyright (c) 2024. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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