IN FOCUS: Ukraine & Moldova Brief

Review of April 2024

Petra Bošková, Sára Gregová, Katarína Žiaranová, Lýdia Chobotová



Long-awaited aid package for Ukraine adopted by the US

The 60 billion USD aid package for Ukraine, first proposed back in October 2023, was finally approved on April 20 by the US Congress after months of deadlock caused by an ultraconservative wing of Republicans. The aid package targets not only military aid in the form of missiles and ammunition but also training of the Ukrainian army, increased US-Ukraine intelligence cooperation, and non-military assistance. However, some are doubtful that the package will prevent Russian victory in Ukraine.

“Our adversaries are working together to undermine our Western values and demean our democracy. We cannot be afraid at this moment. We have to do what’s right. Evil is on the march. History is calling, and now is the time to act,” said one of the Republican Representatives during the deliberations before the vote, appealing to his fellow Republican colleagues. The Republicans from the House of Representatives, closely aligned with Donald Trump, were blocking the adoption of the package for months. Some of them, however, agreed to vote for the package after a new provision has been added to the aid. The provision states that Ukraine must repay 10 billion USD, as some of the aid has been transformed into a loan. It was Trump who publicly called for any future Ukrainian aid to be in the form of a loan, pushing an “America First” sentiment.

After President Biden signed the aid legislation, he expressed the aid would be rushed within hours, especially military aid. It will include shoulder-fired Stinger surface-to-air missiles and other air defence munitions, 155-millimetre shells, Javelin anti-tank guided missiles, and cluster munitions.

Shortly after the vote, President Zelenskyy thanked the US on social media, expressing, “The vital US aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger.” However, some experts disclosed that this package will not be enough to ensure Ukrainian victory over Russia, calling the aid only a short-term solution to replenish the Ukrainian arsenal. They are thus calling for coordinated and long-term Western support of Ukraine.

Iran sanctioned by the EU

As a response to Iran´s attack on Israel, the EU will prepare to expand its sanctions. This was the statement of Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, after an emergency video conference of the bloc´s foreign ministers on April 16. “Today, ministers took a strong stance, asking all actors in the region to move away from the abyss in order not to fall into it,” he told reporters after the meeting.

Several EU members (Germany and France included) proposed expanding a sanctions regime. Borrell said all the ministers from the 27-nation EU strongly condemned the Iranian attack and reaffirmed their commitment to Israel’s security. However, he criticized Israel’s conduct in the war in Gaza as well.

The summit in Brussels (April 17) was the first meeting of the EU’s 27 national leaders since the attack. The conclusion, which was made after the summit, was declared: „The European Council strongly and unequivocally condemns the Iranian attack on Israel and reiterates its full solidarity with the people of Israel and commitment to Israel’s security and to regional stability. The European Council calls on Iran and its proxies to cease all attacks and urges all parties to exercise the utmost restraint and refrain from any action that may increase tensions in the region. The European Union will take further restrictive measures against Iran, notably about unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and missiles. The European Union remains fully committed to contributing to de-escalation and security in the region.“

In addition to the Middle East, the summary was also focused on Ukraine and Turkey.

The EU already has multiple programs that target Iran for human rights abuses, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and Tehran’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Russian Forces’ Brutal Execution of Surrendering Ukrainian Soldiers

Russian forces have executed at least 15 Ukrainian soldiers who were attempting to surrender, and possibly six more who had already surrendered, since December 2023. These actions constitute severe violations of international humanitarian law and should be investigated as war crimes.

A report by Human Rights Watch describes a series of such war crimes committed by Russian forces against Ukrainian fighters who had surrendered their weapons. The report relied on drone footage, social media videos, interviews with Ukrainian soldiers, and media accounts.

Videos of atrocities surface regularly, captured from various perspectives, including surveillance drones and sometimes even by the perpetrators themselves. This level of transparency on the battlefield has allowed analysts to observe and document these egregious acts.

Human Rights Watch documented three distinct cases of summary executions, resulting in the deaths of at least 12 Ukrainian soldiers. In each instance, the victims indicated their intent to surrender, a status that should afford them protection under international law.

The executions do not appear to be isolated instances. Additional evidence includes Russian drone footage, dated February 5, 2024, which captures a separate battlefield incident in the Donetsk region. While it couldn’t be definitively established whether the Ukrainian soldiers in the footage had surrendered, a male voice heard giving orders in Russian, presumably from a Russian source, instructs to “take no prisoners, shoot everyone.”

Reports from 60 released Ukrainian soldiers further corroborate the systematic torture they endured, including beatings, electric shocks, threats of execution, stress positions, mock executions, and sexual violence.

Civilians in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory also faced arbitrary killings, detentions, and limitations on freedom of expression, according to the UN.

International humanitarian law unequivocally mandates the humane treatment of surrendered or captured combatants and prohibits their killing, mistreatment, or torture. The deliberate killing of prisoners of war or those surrendering, known as “no quarter,” is strictly forbidden.

Furthermore, Russia’s obligations under international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, prohibit extrajudicial killings. Despite these legal obligations, Russia has a history of failing to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes committed by its forces.

Russia denies accusations of war crimes in Ukraine, citing its adherence to the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the killing of prisoners of war. However, it’s worth noting that Ukraine has also faced allegations of summary killings of Russian troops in the past.



Photo: Ilan Shor Party`s Facebook page

Governor of Gagauzia Faces Charges of Corruption and Election Interference

The Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office in Moldova announced the completion of a criminal investigation into Evghenia Gutul, the Governor of Gagauzia. Gutul is known for her close ties to the fugitive oligarch Ilan Shor. The investigation alleges that Gutul, during her tenure as secretary within a department of the former Shor Party, actively facilitated the illicit flow of funds from an organized criminal group, primarily originating from the Russian Federation, into Moldova between 2019 and 2022.

According to prosecutors, Gutul not only orchestrated the introduction of untraceable funds but also oversaw the operations of various territorial offices of the Shor Party. Additionally, she stands accused of directing financial resources from this criminal group to remunerate participants in anti-government protests organized by the Shor Party in Chisinau, approximately 2.1 million EUR.

The charges against Gutul include knowingly accepting financing from an organized criminal group to support her electoral campaign, marking a significant breach of electoral ethics. Gutul assumed office as governor amid allegations of voter bribery during the election campaign. Subsequently, both Gutul and Shor denied these accusations.

In a related development, Moldovan authorities recently confiscated over 1 million EUR from individuals returning from Moscow, where they purportedly attended the launch of the “Victory” political bloc led by Shor. Authorities assert that these funds were intended for illegal financing of political entities under Shor’s control. Interim General Prosecutor Ion Munteanu expressed concerns over the participation of Moldovan politicians in Moscow, hinting at potential charges of treason against those involved.

Shor, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the embezzlement of one billion US dollars from Moldovan banks, fled the country in 2019 and has since maintained influence from abroad, where he orchestrates political activities through pro-Russian parties, particularly in Moscow. Moldovan authorities continue to monitor his activities amid ongoing efforts to combat corruption and maintain the rule of law.

Weimar Triangle’s Focus: Enhancing Investment in Moldova

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock declared that the ‘Weimar Triangle’ is looking to activate joint investment to prop up Moldova’s frail public finances amid increasing Russian pressure on the EU candidate country on April 9.

The ‘Weimar Triangle’ is a regional alliance of France, Germany, and Poland created in 1991 in Weimar. This group of states usually operates in the form of summit meetings between the leaders and foreign ministers of these three countries. The cooperation includes inter-parliamentary contacts, military, scientific, and cultural topics.

“We want to work together with our partners in the Weimar Triangle to further expand (Moldova’s) security in every respect, but especially in economic terms, within the framework of the Weimar Triangle,” Baerbock said. This was after the meeting with Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Moldova, Mihai Popsoi, in Berlin.

Moldova is in a challenging position as it edges closer to the formal start of official EU accession talks. Its economy is already one of the poorest in Europe, and with the Russian interference since the war in Ukraine started is struggling even more.

Despite previous European support provided bilaterally and through platforms like the Moldova Support Platform, plans are underway to fortify the Weimar Triangle as a conduit for joint European action in supporting Moldova.

She thinks, that the partners should help to build economic strength through business investment. “Aid alone cannot counter hybrid warfare, but economic strength must come from the country itself. This means that investment is key,” Baerbock said.

Although the dialogue forum of the ‘Weimar Triangle’ had been mostly dormant during the reign of the nationalist conservative PiS party in Poland, the election of the pro-European coalition of Prime Minister Donald Tusk improved the situation.

German, French, and Polish leaders highlighted a joint set of priorities in the format´s meeting in March in Berlin.

Oligarch Shor launches anti-EU party bloc ahead of elections

The fugitive oligarch, Ilan Shor, has launched an anti-EU and pro-Russian party bloc, “Victory” after the Moldovan Constitutional Court did not clear his party´s candidates to run in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. He aims to bring Moldova closer to Russia and abandon the EU membership path.

Shor, sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2023 for Grand Theft from the Moldovan banking system, has been hiding in Israel since the conviction. His party – Șor Party was dissolved in June 2023 after a court found it guilty of paying citizens to cause disorder and unrest, and in October 2023, the Moldovan Parliament amended the electoral code to bar individuals associated with parties deemed illegal or unconstitutional from running for office for three years. This prevented Shor´s candidates from running in the local elections in the fall. However, at the end of March 2024, the Moldovan Constitutional Court ruled that a ban on the candidates running for election was unconstitutional. Shor welcomed the verdict and expressed that it also “calls into question the legitimacy of the past elections”.

On April 21, 2024, in Moscow, Shor announced the launch of the party bloc “Victory” consisting of his party Sansa, the successor of Șor Party, and the Renaissance,  Alternative Force, and Salvare parties. Shor voiced that his party bloc“ offer[s] a new way for Moldova. The EU idea is a ghost; it destroys citizens and the country. [President Maia] Sandu has nothing to offer the people whom she has already completely robbed … Sandu is deliberately breaking the umbilical cord of our ties with the CIS, with Russia … our traditional partners and neighbours.”

Pro-European Moldovan politicians are pointing out the fact that Shor and his people are closely tied with the Kremlin and claim that Shor wants to destabilize Moldova.


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