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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Welcome To Transnistria: A Trip In Time Back To The USSR

The breakaway republic of Transnistria declared its independence 30 years ago, but not even Russia recognizes it as a country. Transnistria is both nostalgic for the Soviet era and prosperous thanks to Russian funds. And a trip there is the closest you can get to visiting the USSR.

“It’s like North Korea here — we can’t leave the country.” Dimitri, around 30 years old, takes a passport out of his pocket. Delivered by Transnistria — a “country” recognized by no state, not even Russia — the document allows him to travel to only two places in the world: South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two Georgian enclaves also claiming their allegiance to the Kremlin. Only one issue: There is no airport in Transnistria, so escaping is only an imagined possibility.

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The young man could ask for a Moldavian passport: After all Transnistria, which borders Ukraine along 450km like a snake, is officially part of the country. But the procedure is long and costly. “The government does not want to give us documents that would allow us to vote. They’re scared of who we would put in power!” He smiles. Here, Moscow fascinates while Europe repels, and Western journalists are banned from staying.

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Flashback In The USSR? How Former Soviet Republics Are Reacting To War in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has been upfront about his desire to rebuild Russia’s influence in the region. Former Soviet states are watching developments in Ukraine closely, with many trying to ensure futures free of interference by Moscow.

For 69 years, the Kremlin was able to keep what were de facto separate nations within the Soviet orbit by the use of weapons, hunger and fear. Even after the collapse of the USSR, every Russian leader considered the former republics to be at least a zone of his influence.

Yet Vladimir Putin has revealed his true understanding of neighborliness, repeatedly stating that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a huge tragedy for Russia. And on this, one might agree, he is right.

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Under the Communist Party, each of the national republics also had their own government, albeit ultimately controlled by the Kremlin. Each of the republics, whether in Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, or Ukraine, had their own capital, culture, language and traditions. For each of the national republics, secession from the Soviet Union brought liberation and independence — an opportunity to build their own state. For every former member state, that is, except Russia.

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Ukraine-EU, U.S. Gun Law Battles, Big Bacteria

👋 Halo!*

Welcome to Friday, where Kyiv gets EU candidate status in Brussels, while Ukrainian forces retreat from Severodonetsk, there’s good and bad news in the U.S. for gun control advocates, and scientists discover one big bacterium. Meanwhile, Persian-language news website Kayhan-London looks at the reasons behind the harsher tone the West has adopted toward Iran in recent weeks.

[*Sundanese, Indonesia]

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India Faces Monumental Challenge As War Chokes Agriculture Market

There is no country that has more hungry mouths to feed than India, which faces not just food inflation that is roiling the global markets but also vulnerability to fertilizer production costs.

NEW DELHI — There is no such thing as a localized conflict in a globalized world. Sooner rather than later, fallouts from the Russia-Ukraine war will overwhelm the operations of developed and developing economies alike, leading up to the largest, and possibly, the worst food crisis the world has seen in decades.

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The focal point for the imminent crisis emerges from the pivotal position the two countries occupy in the global food exports matrix. Ukraine and Russia together command a lion’s share of exports in wheat, barley and corn.

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Carolina Drüten

'Z' Marks Moldova, Inside Putin's Potential Next Target

An exclusive visit inside Moldova's breakaway pro-Russian republic of Transnistria, which many fear may be the gateway to the next war after Ukraine in the strategically important target.

TIRASPOL — With adhesive tape, one of the demonstrators has pasted a Z on his jacket. “Russia, Russia,” the men and women shout, waving blue-and-white flags. Cars are parked at the side of the road, with the Z emblazoned on their windows – a sign that adorns Russian military vehicles in Ukraine these days.

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Wearing a Z is a blatant way to show that your are on the side of Russian President Vladimir Putin in his war of aggression against Ukraine.

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Vladimir Soloviev

Sandu Sweep: Moldova Reformist Revolution May Actually Happen

Last year's election of reformist president Maia Sandu was the first step. But now the anti-graft, pro-Europe forces are about to dominate the Parliament. But what will it look like on the ground?

CHISINAU — Moldovan President Maia Sandu and her Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) are confident that they can turn this week's parliamentary election victory into real reform. Yet for some political players, including former president Igor Dodon, this itself is reason to worry about their fate.

On July 11 it was clear that the results from the parliamentary elections in Moldova held the potential to be truly historic for the Eastern European country. The gap between PAS and all other participants in this parliamentary race was getting larger with every passing hour of ballot counting. According to the preliminary data, the PAS could count as many as 63 seats out of 101, the Communists and Socialists 32, and the Shor Party on 6.

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Vladimir Solovev

The Limits Of Anti-Corruption Protests In Moldova

CHISINAU — The tent city in the center of Moldova"s capital sprung up the evening of Sept. 6, just after a downtown protest had drawn thousands. The demonstrators decided on the spot to stay until they could claim victory; and by nightfall, a few dozen tents had appeared. By the next day there were at least 100.

On a recent day, yet another tent was being set up — and from an unlikely protester. "I worked for the police for 16 years, sometimes even clearing settlements like this," said the man, who did not give his name. "I've tried to go about my business for the past couple months. Now I'm renouncing my duty."

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Ilya Barabanov and Vladimir Solovev

Russia Flexes Soft Power In Moldova

Gagauzia, a small region in neighboring Moldova, has taken a turn toward economic union with Russia, and away from the EU. Will the whole country follow?

GAGAUZIA — Since the beginning of the year, the small autonomous area of Gagauzia in southern Moldova has become an improbably important focus of Russian foreign policy.

In February, it penned a regional cooperation agreement with Russia's Bibirevo region, which like Gagauzia has about 150,000 residents. Russian television stations all talked about Gagauzia, and federal officials began stressing the importance of working with it. Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin promised to help Russians invest in it, and Federation Council head Valentina Matvienko said she'd work to convince every single Russian region to do business with Gagauzia.

Why all this focus on a single area of Moldova, a small country that borders western Ukraine? Because Gagauzia chose a new pro-Russian leader March 22.

Gagauzia started to take on special importance as the Moldovan elite seems to have given up on the Russian-controlled breakaway enclave of Transnistria. Several different well-placed Moldovan diplomats and officials told Kommersant that they simply didn't believe that Transnistria would ever return to Moldovan sovereignty, and so they could ignore what happens there.

Gagauzia is important to Russia because it can help provide a way to put the brakes on Moldova's drift toward the European Union. Given that goal, Russia wanted to make sure the leader in Gagauzia was pro-Russian, and Russia accomplished that with a well-calibrated application of what we can call "soft power."

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Mirel Bran

A Divided Moldova, Where An Anti-EU Minority Clings To Russia

COMRAT — In Comrat, the capital of the autonomous Gagauzia region in southern Moldova, time has stopped. Mud houses and damaged roads, some of which have never been touched by asphalt, make this town of 26,000 residents feel like something from the 19th century. To get closer to what resembles an urban atmosphere, visitors must travel to Lenin Boulevard in the town center, where there are Russian billboards, an Orthodox church, a few shops, a junk store and a statue of Lenin that watches over this eerie place.

Ever since Moldova, a small country between Romania and Ukraine, signed a European Union Association Agreement on June 27, a wave of panic has swept over Gagauzia. This forgotten land, with a population of 160,000, has significant autonomy within Moldova and wants to stay faithful to Russia rather than create ties with the EU.

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