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    Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, March 28

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    Moldova Favors Reunification with Romania \ Russian National Faces Ukrainian Trial on Absurd Espionage Charges

    Nezavisimaya Gazeta
    Moldova Favors Reunification with Romania
    Romania is ready to protect EU’s eastern borders from the Russian threat, Iulian Chifu, Romanian presidential aide for strategic affairs, security and foreign policy, said after President Medvedev appointed Dmitry Rogozin as his representative in Transdnestr. Chifu is calling for an appropriate response from NATO and the EU.

    His statement, published by the Romanian newspaper Adevarul and Moldovan media outlets, is fully in line with the debates on the unification of the “two Romanian states” held by Romanian and Moldovan deputies in the Romanian parliament on Tuesday.

    On that same day Romania unveiled the National Council for Reintegration (of Moldova).  Moldova already has an institution for the reintegration of Transdnestr, which is incompatible with the Romanian council. That is why Rogozin has been appointed to Moldova’s breakaway republic. The Russian Foreign Ministry said their goal is to bolster political dialogue with Moldova and socioeconomic stabilization in Transdnestr.
    Chifu said Romania must show that it has correctly interpreted Russia’s signal, coming at the beginning of Putin’s new presidential term, even though it was Dmitry Medvedev who appointed Rogozin. He believes that “Romania must respond with an adequate appointment and assume responsibility for security on the eastern border.” He also called on “NATO and the EU to make an appropriate response to Russia’s move.”

    Viorel Cibotaru, director of the European Institute for Political Studies in Chisinau, Moldova, said that Romania and Moldova are angry because they were not consulted on Rogozin’s appointment and he is the first Russian special envoy in Transdnestr. He has not been appointed to conduct “talks on a Transdnestr settlement” but will have the same tasks as the president’s envoys in the Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Cibotaru says this is the first step toward recognizing Transdnestr’s independence. It is one thing if Rogozin’s mission is to restore order after 20 years of Igor Smirnov’s rule, but if his task is to put pressure on the 5+2 settlement process, the move could exacerbate the situation.

    “There would have been protests no matter who was appointed,” said Sergei Zhiltsov, head of the CIS Center at the Russian Diplomatic Academy’s Institute of Topical International Problems. “Since Nicolae Timofti was elected president of Moldova, it has become clear that the Moldovan elite is working toward reunification with Romania.” He continued: “Moscow needs to understand Chisinau’s plans. It is still unclear whether Moldova wants to keep its sovereignty or will continue working toward reunification with Romania, in which case, Moscow will have to put its stake on Transdnestr.”
    Ukrainian political analyst Serhiy Tolstov believes that “nothing can stop Moldova’s movement toward Romania,” but Russia can influence it to protect Transdnestr. Viorel Cibotaru argues that reunification is a costly enterprise which the EU will not finance.

    Moldovans are divided over the issue. On March 25, the advocates of Moldovan sovereignty tried to stop a pro-reunification march in Chisinau. The police had to step in to prevent an almost inevitable clash between them.

    Moskovskiye Novosti
    Russian National Faces Ukrainian Trial on Absurd Espionage Charges

    Russian defense engineer Artur Stepanyants will face trial on March 29 in Sevastopol, charged with espionage after buying Russian-made radio jamming equipment.

    According to Ukrainian security services, the two “plotters” – Stepanyants and Ukrainian national Valery Taranukha – obtained “secret radio jamming station equipment” from a Ukrainian serviceman, a move that could “increase the vulnerability of the Ukrainian Navy and threaten the country’s defenses.” The espionage and high treason charges could land them both in prison for 15 years.

    The reality was hardly the stuff of spy thrillers. Stepanyants served as deputy technical director at a company that repaired Russia’s Black Sea Fleet equipment. He and his former college friend Taranukha were buying the spare parts to participate in an online tender to repair jamming stations on Black Sea Fleet warships. The seller, who agreed to sell some written-off units for $2,000, turned out to be an agent provocateur working for the Ukranian security services.

    There are several aspects to this case. Technically, the “secret” equipment was obsolete. It was developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s-1980s. “Back then it was classified, but that changed later,” said former Black Sea Fleet commander Igor Kasatonov. Russia and Ukraine use a single database of classified equipment. But Ukraine is known to sell some of it to third parties, he added.

    In legal terms, the case rests on the opinion of Igor Tenyukh, a former commander of the Ukrainian Navy, who considers the equipment classified. However, Stepanyants’s lawyers said one of the jamming station units is manufactured by a Russian plant in Rostov-on-Don. The others were classified after the case was instituted. At the same time, under Ukrainian law, a product cannot be classified without the producer’s consent, which the Rostov plant never gave. None of the “secret” equipment is on the classified database. It also makes no sense for a spy to steal equipment manufactured by his own country.

    There is also a political aspect to Stepanyants’ case. It was opened between the two rounds of voting in the Ukrainian 2010 presidential elections, when the country’s security services initiated several spy cases against Russians.

    The hearings are being held behind closed doors. “Ukraine has conveniently shut out the media, public organizations and experts, who could be called on as witnesses, and diplomats,” a Russian diplomatic source said.

    Russia’s Consulate General in Simferopol has repeatedly asked the authorities to release Stepanyants before the trial, but the requests have been declined. “This won’t end in a fair hearing. Russia must take an active stance,” said Nelli Stepanyants, the “spy’s” wife. She has appealed to the presidents of Russia and Ukraine, to United Russia, A Just Russia and LDPR, but received only non-committal replies, except from Viktor Yanukovych who did not respond at all. “I have been trying for months to get confirmation from the Defense Ministry that the jamming equipment was Russia’s intellectual property,” she said.

    Stepanyants has spent over two years behind bars.

    RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.

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