The Russian offensive for the leadership in the Gagauz autonomy

Colaj CIJM
Author: Tatiana Gherța
05/04/2023 20562

One year after the invasion of Ukraine, the residents of the Gagauz Autonomy find it difficult to recognize that the aggressor is the Russian Federation itself, despite being clearly against any aggression.  The "Russian world" has and continues to have a strong influence in the region, and most opinion and political leaders do not hide their "dangerous connections" with the Kremlin administration. Russia appears as a guarantor of social good and a secure future in the rhetoric of the aspirants to the bashkan's chair. There are eight candidates, apparently with different visions, but they are on the same page when it comes to the autonomy's relations with the Russian Federation. The slogans of Nicolai Dudoglo, Grigorii Uzun, Victor Petrov, Mihail Formuzal, Dmitrii Croitor, Serghei Cimpoeș, Serghei Cernev, and Evghenia Guțul faithfully reflect the unbreakable Gagauz-Russian brotherhood.


The Gagauzians are waiting for "a friend of Russia."

The interests of the residents of UTA Gagauzia are focused less on the country project announced by the government, namely integration into the European Union, but rather on the path that brings them closer to Russia. The tone is set by political leaders in the region who, at various stages, have been quite vocal in promoting the interests of the Russian Federation. It is also about the referendums, without any legal effect, which showed that more than 98% of voters want to join the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Customs Union. Eight years on from the organization of the so-called plebiscite, the people of Gagauzia do not seem to have changed their position. And this becomes more and more accentuated in the midst of the campaign for the position of bashkan of the region. Although the countdown has begun, and the election is only a few weeks away, the election campaign is in a state of numbness for now, just like the bust of Lenin in the center of Comrat, frozen between two worlds.

We arrived in the southern part of the country during the period when some candidates were already registered for the electoral race and actively involved in their campaigns, while others were still in the process of collecting signatures. We noticed the first signs pointing to the elections right at the entrance to Comrat, where we were greeted by billboards with two of the candidates registered in the electoral competition. They also caught our eye in the city center. That's it.

It is no longer surprising that during every election in the Gagauz-Yeri administrative-territorial unit, candidates launch pro-East messages in public spaces. This strategy appears to be more persuasive. Although the governor has limited powers to make certain decisions regarding the region's development, candidates do not stop at discussions related to the measures they are preparing for economic growth and improving the quality of life of the natives, but they assume the prerogatives of the central authorities without any problem.

We asked the locals what they expect from the new governor of UTA Gagauz-Yeri. Many residents told us that they were not interested in politics, that they no longer trusted anyone, or that they would not go out to vote. However, expectations of other citizens are completely identical to the pro-Kremlin messages promoted by some candidates.They want lower prices for utilities, more attention to the elderly, and economic development for Gagauzia, which they believe can only be achieved with Russia's help.

Nicolai Dudoglo: "Romanization is an unacceptable path for Gagauzia"

Nicolai Dudoglo, a former ic deputy, is attempting for the fourth time to win the seat of the mayor of UTA Găgăuz-Yeri. In the previous two elections, he reached the second round of voting and obtained over 40% of the votes, but was ultimately unable to surpass his electoral competitor. In the last election, he received a little over 19% of the votes. Like previous times, he is running as an independent and has chosen the black horse as his symbol, representing Gagauzia and Comrat. "Gagauzia is waiting for changes," believes Dudoglo, his main campaign message that can also be seen on the billboards throughout Comrat.


Election promises and accusations against the central authorities

Dudoglo has made various promises to potential voters, including "I promise that the moment I become Bashkan, all the inhabitants of Gagauzia will live in warmth, they will have food, shoes, and employment opportunities, so that they will not be afraid for the future of their families."

Dudoglo is not limiting his campaign to just electoral meetings; he is also organizing rallies. One such rally occurred on March 18, where a few dozen people gathered in front of the cultural center in Comrat. During the rally, the independent candidate expressed his position on the political situation in the country and spoke about the war in Ukraine. He blamed the central authorities for their positions, particularly regarding the decision of the Hague Tribunal to issue a warrant in the name of Vladimir Putin. "We cannot accept the fact that the president of the Republic of Moldova claims that the Russian president must be tried by the International Court in The Hague," Dudoglo said.

Source:Николай Дудогло

Candidate Nicolai Dudoglo, an independent running for office, has promised voters that he will do everything in his power to prevent war in our country. However, he openly promotes fake news about Ukrainian soldiers forming a shield near the border with the separatist Transnistrian region, and claims that "NATO forces are already positioned behind Cahul."

Dudoglo has expressed his intention to save autonomy by resisting the central government's initiatives, including the law on separatism, changing the language from Moldovan to Romanian, the intention to leave the CIS, approaching NATO, and provisions for the commercialization of land for foreign investors.

"We can see that everything happening now is bringing us closer and closer to Romania. They first adopted the law on separatism. This law is against Transnistria, but also against Gagauzia. If we transmit negative messages against the country, then we are liable, accused of separatism, and  criminal cases are initiated. Gagauzia is an integral part of the Republic of Moldova, but today a project is being adopted against us. Another step was recently taken. There is no longer a Moldovan language. We live in the Republic of Moldova, but we no longer have our language, our language is now Romanian. This decision was made by Moldovans who are giving up their language. We are Turks, but Gagauz people do not say that their language is Turkish. Another initiative being promoted is to leave the CIS. Who said that we no longer need the East? We are Russian-speaking people, and we are building our future only with our friends from Russia and the CIS countries," Dudoglo emphasized in front of the crowd.


Dudoglo believes that any decision taken by Chisinau must be consulted with the authorities in Gagauzia, and most importantly, "for Gagauzia, Romanianization is an unacceptable path," according Dudoglo.

Nicolai Dudoglo is a professional pedagogue and emeritus coach of the Republic of Moldova who trains the Olympic Reserve of the country in freestyle wrestling. In addition to holding the position of deputy in the People's Assembly, he also manages the activities of four organizations: the "БОЗ КУРТ" Sports Club, the "Victoria" Charitable Fund, the "DEVLET" Popular-Patriotic Union Public Association, and the Public Movement "New Gagauzia" or "Eni Gagauziya."

Nicolae Dudoglo's political activity began in 2004 when he obtained the mandate of the mayor of Comrat municipality. He managed to secure three consecutive mandates. The position of mayor opened the way to big politics. In 2012, he joined the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM), and in 2014, he was elected as a deputy on the party's lists.

Bye Russia, bye Dudoglo

The idyll between Nicolae Dudoglo and PDM ended in May 2018 when he renounced his mandate as a deputy. At that time, the former Democratic leader, Vlad Plahotniuc, was being attacked by the files opened in his name in the Russian Federation. "All these files are fantasies and attempts to involve my name in some files that have absolutely nothing to do with me," said Plahotniuc at the time. From here, we can conclude that the real reason for giving up the deputy mandate was the dispute between Plahotniuc and Moscow, not Dudoglo's active involvement in the public association "New Gagauzia."

The Public Movement "New Gagauzia" was founded in 2010. In the same year, it tried to initiate a referendum on the declaration of the Russian language as the second state language in the Republic of Moldova. However, the Central Electoral Commission did not register the request of the "New Gagauzia" group for the organization of a referendum on the subject of the Russian language.

However, Dudoglo supported the organization of the 2014 referendums in the Gagauz autonomy: "the legislative referendum for the external self-determination of the inhabitants of the Gagauz region" and "the consultative referendum on the external development vector of the Republic of Moldova." Experts then mentioned that those plebiscites were unconstitutional because Article 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova establishes that "the Republic of Moldova is a sovereign and independent, unitary, and indivisible state." Also, the Law on the special legal status of Gagauzia establishes in Article 12, paragraph (3) letter e) that "the People's Assembly of Gagauzia only has the competence to hold local referendums on issues related to the competence of the Gagauz autonomy."


According to the declaration of wealth and personal interests submitted to the Electoral Commission of Gagauzia, Nicolai Dudoglo earned an income of 105,940.00 lei in 2022, which is 13,500 lei more than in 2021. However, the source of his salary is not indicated in this declaration. We learn from another statement submitted to the National Integrity Authority (ANI) in 2022 that he received a salary from the Free Wrestling Federation of the Republic of Moldova. Additionally, his wife's income increased by almost 37,000 lei in 2022. She earned almost 300,000 lei from her work at Comrat State University and the boarding sports high school in Comrat. The submitted statement shows that the financial burden of the Dudoglo family is borne by his wife, who also made 3 bank loans. In 2019, they borrowed 300,000 lei, the second loan of 400,000 lei was contracted in 2020, and the third and last loan was made in 2021 of 350,000 lei.

In the past year, Dudoglo earned 55,000 lei from the sale of a residential property. He declares that he and his wife own 6 plots of land, including the last one which was purchased last year for a market value of 5,700.00 lei. Additionally, their list of properties increased with another building of 14.3 m2, valued at 46,767.00 lei. They also own 2 apartments; one is 39.2 m2 and was purchased in 2013, while the other is 77.3 m2 and was privatized in 1999 as a gift. Another 66 m2 apartment was purchased in 2016, but it is not listed in the electoral commission's asset declaration, only in the one submitted to ANI. Dudoglo also declares ownership of a house with an area of 197.6 m2, for which he obtained the ownership right in 2020, as well as a garage of 24.1 m2 in 2022. Additionally, he owns 2 cars: a Toyota Rav 4 (2010), which his wife is the effective beneficiary of, and a Skoda Superb (2015), which he is the effective beneficiary of.


Grigorii Uzun - semi-independent

Grigorii Uzun, aged 36, is trying his hand for the first time in the electoral ballot for the governor of Gagauzia after his experience as a deputy in the People's Assembly of Gagauzia and the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, in both cases supported and advanced by the Party of Socialists from the Republic of Moldova. He was born and currently resides in the city of Vulcănești, UTA Gagauz-Yeri. In the current election, he is running independently but under the wing of the Socialist Party (PSRM), as indicated by the red star symbol on the ballot. At the beginning of the electoral campaign, Grigorii Uzun expressed his expectations from the socialist formation, hoping it would support him in the campaign. Later, the former president of the Socialists, Igor Dodon, echoed a similar message, mentioning that the PSRM would provide official confirmation. This confirmation was made a week before the start of the signature collection race by the executive secretary of the PSRM, Vlad Batrîncea.

"We have collaborated on many projects, both in the Republic of Moldova and specifically in the Gagauz autonomy. I encourage everyone to review Grigorii Uzun's electoral program, to place their trust in him and his team. In this campaign, the PSRM will provide specific support to Mr. Uzun because he has demonstrated that he is a responsible team member who prioritizes the work at hand. He keeps all his promises, is a man of his word, and we will support him. We are confident that Grigorii Uzun will be a good bashkan for Gagauzia," stated Batrîncea.

Grigorii Uzun is an active member of the Socialists in Gagauzia, participating in all the actions organized by the party in the region. A further indication of their partnership is the numerous photos of Uzun with former President Igor Dodon. Moreover, Grigory Uzun was a confidant of candidate Igor Dodon in the 2016 presidential election. The campaign message of the independent candidate, Grigorii Uzun, is "Gagauzia decides for itself."

"I'm sure that in a few months, he won't learn the Romanian language"

This time, it is Dodon who is lending his support to Grigorii Uzun. He also attended the launch event of the independent candidate's electoral campaign for the governorship of Gagauzia. The event took place on March 12 at the cultural center in Comrat.

"Why Grigorii Uzun? I will answer very clearly, and you will understand me. I'm sure that in a few months, he won't start learning Romanian and won't call it Romanian as the current governor does. I am confident that he is a patriot who believes that our language is Moldovan and that history belongs to Moldova, nothing else. I am certain that he will not say that the future of the Republic of Moldova is in the European Union," said Igor Dodon, receiving enthusiastic applause from the audience. The PSRM members did not limit their presence in Gagauzia to just the launch day but continued to actively participate in discussions between their "independent" candidate and the voters.

The echo of past scandals

However, Uzun is known in the public space for his alleged violent behavior on several occasions. At the end of last year, Grigorii Uzun, together with another socialist deputy from the People's Assembly of Gagauzia, Leonid Chiosea, allegedly assaulted a resident of the city of Vulcanesti. The incident reportedly occurred at a petrol station in the city, as a result of a conflict between them. This is not the first offense. Three years ago, on Epiphany day itself, the traditional immersion in the water ended with a fierce fight, in which Grigorii Uzun was allegedly involved. Uzun claimed that he was actually a victim in that conflict and that he was not guilty of what had happened. Although a case was opened against Grigorii Uzun, he was ultimately exonerated.


Grigorii Uzun is a petroleum engineer by profession, but he has never worked in that field. Instead, he specialized in the transport services sector and owns a business in this field in the Russian Federation. According to a statement of assets published on the CECG website, he received a monthly salary of over 9 thousand lei from the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova in the past year, totaling 108,791.47 lei, while his wife received 11,124.67 lei from CNAS as a child care allowance. Uzun also got various compensations from Parliament, totaling over 105 thousand lei.

In the statement uploaded to the CEC, Uzun declares that he owns two Toyota cars, the first purchased in 2015 and the second in 2017(production year), for about one and a half million lei. The list is also completed by six Kamaz brand trucks, five of which were purchased in 2016 for over 14 million Russian rubles. The last one was bought in 2017 for about seven million Russian rubles.

While Grigorii Uzun declared in 2021 that he owns an apartment of 77.7 m2, which was purchased in 2009, no immovable property is presented in the latest declaration, so it's unclear where he lives at the moment.

Regarding expenses for the electoral campaign, the candidate indicates the amount of 185 thousand lei, of which 135 thousand are donations, and 50 thousand are his own contribution. In the first week of the campaign, Uzun declared 0 expenses, but in the second week, almost 74 thousand lei were used up. Most resources (64,825 lei) were spent on promotion.


Victor Petrov - the most wealthy cansdidate

On the same stage, only two days earlier, the presentation of another candidate for the post of bashkan took place. It was Victor Petrov, an independent candidate, but like his opponent, he also has shadow support from the PSRM. Only one socialist deputy, Vasile Bolea, came to support Petrov. His decision was like a blow to the party, which quickly manifested in a press release.

"The PSRM Executive Committee decided to give political support to the independent candidate Grigore Uzun for the position of Bascan of UTA Gagauzia. The decision of the Executive Committee was approved by the majority of the members of the Republican Council. Supporting a candidate other than Uzun is the decision of a single deputy, Vasile Bolea, which is not approved by the team. Under these conditions, the management of PSRM requests Mr. Vasile Bolea to respect the decision of his colleagues. Also, the Executive Committee will take decisions in relation to deputy Vasile Bolea in accordance with the Party's statute," read the statement presented by the PSRM on March 10, 2023.

The harsh reaction from the PSRM did not make Bolea turn around. Moreover, he participated with Petrov in the launch event of the electoral campaign, as well as in the meetings he organized with the residents of the autonomy.

Talks with "voters" in Tatarstan

"The intention to participate in the election for the position of bashkan appeared together with requests from the community," said Petrov. After registering in the electoral race, Victor Petrov did not stay in Comrat, nor did he have any meetings with potential voters in the region. Instead, he paid a quick visit to Tatarstan. The published text highlights the fact that the visit was carried out as a member of the People's Assembly of Gagauzia, and not as a candidate. Petrov met with the President of the Republic of Tatarstan, Rustam Minnikhanov. The two discussed the continuation of strategic cooperation between Tatarstan and Gagauzia.

Minnikhanov, Putin's lackey

Rustam Minnikhanov has been the President of Tatarstan since 2010. On January 26 of this year, the United States of America announced sanctions against him and his wife. The statement issued by the US authorities states that "the US has sanctioned Rustam Nurgaliyevich Minnikhanov (Minnikhanov), a Russian citizen and chairman of the board of directors of the Tupolev Public Joint Stock Company, which produces strategic bombers for the Russian Armed Forces. Minnikhanov is also the long-serving head of Tatarstan, a federal subject of the Russian Federation. Minnikhanov is targeted, according to E.O. 14024, because he is or has been a leader, official, senior executive officer or member of the board of directors of the Government of Russia and because he is active or has been active in the defense or related as well as aerospace sectors of the economy of the Federation."

The same source notes that a good part of Minnikhanov's properties are officially registered in the name of his wife, Gulsina Akhatovna Minnikhanova. The wife's main source of income comes from managing the "Luciano" hotel and spa complex in the city of Kazan. In 2016, a non-governmental organization in Russia launched a series of accusations against the Minnikhanov family for accepting bribes in the form of investments in the "Luciano" complex. The same source estimated that the Tatarstan ruler's family owns properties worth nearly $50 million, spread across Russia, France, and the United Arab Emirates. Accordingly, Rustam Minnikhanov's wife was also included in the sanctions.

Three days before the US announced the new sanctions, Minnikhanov had a personal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He informed him about Tatarstan's support for the so-called special military operation. In the same context, he reported that the Republic of Tatarstan allocated almost 2.5 million rubles for this purpose. Additionally, he referred to the two combat battalions from Tatarstan sent to the hot zones.

The head of the republic boasted to the Kremlin leader about the launch of the largest IT park, spanning 50,000 square meters and built in the center of Kazan. The facilities inside it generate a profit of about 515 billion rubles.

It is worth noting that Petrov's visit to Kazan appears to be of a diplomatic nature, but in the current electoral context, it seems more like an attempt to attract as many voters as possible. This is evident even in the electoral newspapers distributed during his campaign meetings, which provide detailed information about Petrov's visit to Tatarstan on the third page.

While the IT sector has gained momentum in recent years, the topic seems to be of purely personal interest to Victor Petrov, as derived from his declaration of assets and personal interests, which are detailed below. We have requested a comment from the CECG in this regard. The President of the CECG, Iana Covalenco, informed us that "if the candidate mentioned that the visit was made as a deputy and objections regarding these trips to the Russian Federation were not submitted for action to be taken, then the CECG cannot intervene, as we have no levers to act."

Donations or campaign memorabilia?

According to sources in the region, Petrov is a newcomer in the political arena and therefore may not have a high chance of gaining the trust and votes of the majority. However, he is recognized as a businessman in the tourism and IT fields. Furthermore, in March 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic, Victor Petrov founded the volunteer organization "Народный антикризисный штаб (НАШ)" and is thus regarded in the region as a true philanthropist. It seems that the organization is providing him with significant support in his electoral campaign, as the founder, Victor Petrov, participates in almost every volunteer action.


The organization's headquarters is located just a few minutes away from the city center. The volunteers carry out their work in a new, modern block that stands out against the dilapidated appearance of the neighboring buildings.

The organization is an active resource used by Petrov, especially since the independent candidate's campaign headquarters is located there. The organization's symbol will also appear on the ballot. When we arrived, we were greeted by a volunteer and a stray electoral newspaper on a table.

Victor Petrov had left the office a few minutes before we arrived, so we did not have a chance to ask him in detail what changes he is planning to bring to the autonomy. However, we managed to learn a few things from the few campaign images attached to the walls inside the office. Petrov plans to focus on supporting young people, attracting investments, and supporting businesses.


In the last statement of wealth and personal interests submitted by Petrov to ANI in 2022, he stated that he had received a salary of 378,851.18 MDL in 2021, which is over 31,000 lei per month from the Tez Tour SRL travel agency. In the statement submitted to the CECG, Petrov declared that he had received a salary of 2,578.67 lei during the last year.

If Petrov's wife was remunerated from her work in an IT company - Telecomservis SRL - with a monthly salary of almost 150,000 lei (total income for the declared year being - 1,780,000 lei), in 2022 her revenues increased considerably. The income of the candidate's wife reached 3,477,765.90 lei, which is almost 300,000 lei per month.

Considering the generous financial assets that the Petrov family possesses, it is understandable why Victor Petrov is actively showing interest in the development of the IT sector in Gagauzia during the election campaign. Petrov's wife also owns two houses. One of them, with an area of 124 m², was purchased in 2021 for 128,440 lei, and another with an area of 112 m² was purchased for 2,155,000 lei in 2019. The family also owns three cars, a Porsche Carrera 911, manufactured in 2017 and purchased in 2019, with a market cost of 80,000 euros, a Porsche Cayenne, purchased in 2022 for the same amount, and a Skoda Superb, which costs 806,000 lei and arrived in the Petrov family in 2022. All three cars are registered in the name of Petrov's wife.

A Range Rover with a 2018 manufacturing year worth 35,000 euros has disappeared from the declaration submitted by Victor Petrov to the National Integrity Agency (ANI) for 2021. Under the business section, Petrov's wife owns 50% of the assets of Toligma Lux SRL transportation company and 45% of the assets of Lanius Trai company registered in Germany. The list is completed with information about the 50% of assets owned by Victor Petrov in the Damla Tur SRL travel agency. The Petrov family has no bank accounts or debts.


Mihail Formuzal: in line for a third term

After his last message posted on a social network in 2014, which said: "Friends! I have decided to leave the network. Success to all!" Mihail Formuzal got tired of staying in the shadows and decided to come back. Mihail Formuzal has served two terms as bashkan of Gagauzia, and now he aspires to a third one. As in the previous elections in which he ran (three in total), he is an independent candidate, and his symbol is represented by a rose. Mihail Formuzal previously served two terms as bashkan of Gagauzia, the first in 2006, the second in 2010. After a break of 7 years, he announced his return because, he says, "the need to bring order to our house remains unchanged."

"Seven years ago, I ended my political activity, considering that four terms of trust from the voters (2006-2015) were sufficient. In these seven years, I did not run anywhere, did not get involved in political processes, and rarely exposed myself on social networks. My family needed my support during these seven years, and I spent most of my time with my loved ones. Many things have changed in the country and Gagauzia in these years, but only the words about the need to bring order to our house have remained unchanged," said Mihail Formuzal.

During the first meeting of the initiative group, the independent candidate, Mihail Formuzat, expressed his indignation at the degradation and depopulation of the Gagauzia region in recent years. In this context, he urged the residents of the region to participate in the elections, and if they have no favorite candidate, to spoil the ballot, but they must show up at the polls.

"We will have a fair campaign, we will not fight anyone, we have competent people on the team who will work balanced. But I ask you, as well as competitors, to speak to people and convince them to go to the polls. It is everyone's right to choose; if you don't like any candidate, go and spoil the ballot. It is your autonomy, and your vote decides who will lead the autonomy," Formuzal emphasized.

Formuzal also stated that the Bashkan's phone number should be made public, so that anyone can access it and call if necessary. Additionally, Formuzal expects the bashkan to be working every Saturday. The Alternativa project, which Formuzal announced in September of last year, is limited to an online platform and could be considered a campaign site. As the electoral campaign began, the site was filled with information related to the actions of the independent candidate, Mihail Formuzat. There are also comments with the final signature of the Analytical Department of the "Alternativa" Association discrediting Formuzal's opponents in the electoral race, indicating that the digital spokesperson is used as a promotional tool.

In 2014, Mihail Formuzat supported the organization of a referendum on foreign policy orientation when he was in the position of bashkan of UTA Găgăuzia. However, the referendum was declared illegal by central authorities.

Regarding his wealth, Formuzal's income over the past year consisted of dividends in the amount of 18,041 lei. He also collected over 9,000 lei monthly from his pension and income from a property he rents out. Formuzal indicates that he owns a plot of land over 6 hectares in size, which he purchased in 2016, but does not disclose its price. The price of a car he purchased in 2019 is also undisclosed, and even the brand is not indicated. Formuzal has 16,000 lei accumulated on a bank card and declares that he owns shares in two organizations, AO ATB 24 and AO Centrul Tehnic. He is also the founder of the Gagauzia Strategic Research Fund and the Alternative Association. However, the declaration does not indicate any real estate or his wife's income.


Dmitri Croitor - will do everything to have the support of the state

Dmitri Croitor, currently the ambassador of the Republic of Moldova in Turkey, has announced his independent candidacy for the position of baskan of Gagauzia. "I like my position, but I want to be useful to my people, and the election campaign for the position of baskan of Gagauzia will start soon in Gagauzia. I intend to run for the position of bashkan of Gagauzia," said Dumitru Croitor during a show on the regional television station GRT. Croitor currently holds the position of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of Moldova in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan. Croitor previously ran for the position of bascan of Gagauzia in 2015, receiving over 6% of the electorate's votes. He previously held the position of Bascan of Gagauzia from 1999-2002, but resigned from the position at his own request.

Dmitri Croitor is  a government candidate, as declared by the honorary president of the PSRM, Igor Dodon, at the beginning of the election campaign. "The candidate supported by government will be the candidate also supported by the current baskan of Gagauzia, you will see later who it is," said Dodon. We combined the statements made by Dodon with some photos published at that time by the incumbent baskan of Gagauzia, Irina Vlah, on a social network. At an event dedicated to the premiership of teachers in the region, Vlah came accompanied by the independent candidate for the position of baskan, Dmitri Croitor.

Some sources from the region have informed that the alliance between Vlah and Croitor resembles an exchange of roles. There is already a rumor circulating in the region that Irina Vlah may soon be appointed as the ambassador of the Republic of Moldova to Turkey. Croitor has stated that he will do everything in his power "to promote the development of Gagauzia, ensuring that the elderly are protected in their autonomy, and that young people have prospects and are not enticed to leave the region."


In his wealth declaration, Croitor has reported income from his ambassadorial salary of 470,273 lei in the past year, along with an allowance of almost 66,000 euros from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration. He also declared two apartments, one of 72 square meters purchased in 2003 for 346,483 lei and another of 54 square meters purchased in 2017 for 301,718 lei. Additionally, he owns a residential house of 165 square meters purchased in 2018 for which he took out a loan of 150,141 lei, and a garage purchased in the same year. All immovable assets are registered in his wife's name. Croitor also declared a MAZDA model car manufactured and purchased in 2008 for the amount of 12,500 US dollars and a Nissan X-TRAIL acquired in 2019.


Serghei Cimpoeș – solutions sought in Russia

The deputy of the Gagauzia People's Assembly (APG), Serghei Cimpoeș, has registered for the second time to run for the position of mayor of Gagauzia. His first attempt was in the 2019 election when he accumulated 7.2% of the vote. Cimpoeș submitted his candidacy as an independent candidate. However, things can be seen differently due to the pro-Russian rhetoric he actively promotes. Accordingly, some representatives of civil society have named him the candidate of Moscow. Cimpoeș's friendship with the Russian Federation is also highlighted by the fact that he paid a quick visit to Moscow just when signatures were being collected for his support. There, the APG deputy had meetings with the Vice-President of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Pyotr Tolstoy, as well as with other representatives of the parliamentary factions in Russia.


The "sins" of the central authorities are not accepted in Gagauzia

Cimpoeș complained in front of those who frantically applaud the criminal actions carried out at the command of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in Ukraine. He complained about the actions of the central authorities in Chisinau, which have made decisions that, according to him, "go against the interests of Gagauzia."

"I told them, for example, about the fact that in 2019 the parliament adopted the law on non-discrimination, which legalized the organization of parades of sexual minorities. We, the APG deputies, adopted another law by which we prohibited the organization of this sin on the territory of Gagauzia," mentioned Cimpoeș. In fact, he asked the Russian deputies to politically support autonomy, especially in relation to the price of gas, provide technical solutions to create an irrigation ecosystem, and to give support to young people in the region.

It seems that the visit to Moscow prevented Cimpoeș from focusing on the election of the bashkan in which he was engaged. Even though he collected the necessary number of signatures and presented them to the Central Electoral Commission of Gagauzia (CECG) in the region, he was denied registration in the electoral race.

According to the explanatory note released by the electoral authority in the region, "Out of the total of 1864 signatures collected in support of the candidate Serghei Cimpoeș, 5 signatures were cancelled, as the same people had expressed their support for the candidate Mihail Formuzal. There were also claims on another 1,000 signatures collected, as the exact address of the signatories was missing," explains the CECG.

Cimpoeș says that the decision not to accept him in the race is a political one, and he does not rule out that the central authorities might be behind it. He intends to go to court to annul the decision of the EC in the region.

A few days after the scandal, the CECG in the region registered the initiative group again to collect signatures in support of the independent candidate, Serghei Cimpoeș. He had five days to collect signatures. After the second attempt, he was registered for the electoral race.


The main source of income for the Cimpoeș family is their family business, Basarabia Agroexport SRL. In the past year, Serghei Cimpoeș earned a monthly salary of 12,800 lei from this company, which amounted to a total of 153,600 lei. His wife also earned a salary of 126,000 lei from the same company. The salary is modest in addition to the dividends received from the company, which filled his bank account with almost 3 million lei. In addition, Serghei Cimpoeș declared ownership of eight more lands, five of which are agricultural. Regarding immovable assets, Cimpoeș states that he only owns a 96 m2. apartment, which was purchased in 2016 for 7 million rubles. In 2016, the Cimpoeș family also purchased a 65 m2 apartment for 128,901 lei. The house shown in the declaration is owned by his wife, with a total of 140 m2 and purchased in 2003, although the amount is not indicated. Cimpoeș does not have a car at his disposal, nor does he have any credit cards, loans, or debts.


Serghei Cernev: "A true Bashkan must be ready to die for Gagauzia"

Serghei Cernev is a former deputy in the People's Assembly of Gagauzia and former president of the Vulcănești district. After a 2-year hiatus, he has decided to return to the public eye, this time as an independent candidate for the position of governor of the autonomy. Cernev also ran for the post of bashkan in the 2015 election, when he was supported by 122 voters (0.2%). Although he has repeatedly stated that the election of the bashkan would be cancelled, his convictions did not prevent him from personally running for this position. "Considering that the autonomy's status is currently under attack, laws are being passed that endanger the region and our identity. The fact that Gagauzia is drowning in corruption, poverty, and lawlessness made me run for the position of bashkan of Gagauzia," Cernev reasoned. In addition, Cernev says his electoral program will be a popular one and will be created by the people. Depending on the localities he visits, he will collect citizens' grievances and include them in the program.

He declares himself a convinced centrist who will initiate cooperative relations both with the European states and with Russia or Ukraine, countries where a good part of the region's inhabitants work and which, "once we create optimal conditions in the region, they will come back and apply all their knowledge here in Gagauzia," believes Cernev.

Cernev also pointed out in a televised show that "if the investments made by the EU in recent years in Gagauzia had really reached the people, then Gagauzia would have been the first to join the European states". This did not happen, nor did the region's economy grow because "the grants offered by the Europeans were stolen."

Fist (face) on the table candidate 

The democratic and clean stance presented in the current voting goes head-to-head with the brawler and bully reputation he has behind him. Cernev was involved in countless scandals.

In February 2012, when he was serving as a deputy in the APG, he hit the then-bascan, Mihail Formuzal.

Two years later, Formuzal was also knocked down after Cernev climbed on the table and kicked him in the face. The then-president of the National Assembly, Dmitrii Constantinov, also suffered in that fight. He got an elbow in the face from Cernev.

Cernev did not stop there, but he also punctured the wheels of two company cars.


During the past year, Serghei Cernev was elected from the Public Services Agency with a salary of 51,000 lei, just over 4,000 lei monthly. A more generous salary, of over 33,000 lei per month (400,000 lei), was received by Cernev's wife, also from the Public Services Agency. For the same period, the wife also got the salary of 36,000 lei from the Central Public Library. Cernev declares that he has a 179 m2 house which cost 0 lei at the time of acquisition. The list of goods is completed by 2 cars, a Skoda Octavia manufactured in 2014 and purchased in 2019 for 90,000 lei, and a Jeep Grand Cherokee, purchased in 2014 for 30,000 lei. For two other trailers and two trucks that he owns, the price is not noted.


Evghenia Guțul – the jurist who wants to do justice to the Gagauz people

Evghenia Guțul  is the only woman registered in the electoral race and the only one nominated by a political party, specifically the Shor Party. According to a press release from the party, published on the day the initiative group was registered with the Central Electoral Commission of Gagauzia (CECG), Guțul is originally from the commune of Etulia in the autonomous region and is a lawyer by profession. When Guțul went to register with the CECG, she was accompanied by leaders and sympathizers of the Shor Party, including MP Marina Tauber, Chisinau Municipal Councilor Serghei Burgudji, and other representatives of the party. They claim that they will give Guțul all the necessary support.

The Shor Party believes that Gagauzia deserves a better life and has all the necessary resources for it, including human potential, international relations, and a willingness to work. The Gagauz people have always been a united and strong people, and the Shor Party aims to revive these qualities with its competent and strong team. The representatives of the party also assure that they will turn Gagauzia into a dream place.



Evghenia Guțul declared that she received an income of 4243.94 lei last year, without indicating its source. Her husband earned a profit of 120,000 lei and a salary of 20,000 lei from the private company he manages, which specializes in supplying tableware and inventory for restaurants. Evghenia Guțul also stated that she received a gift of 20,000 euros in 2022. She also received a childcare allowance of 15,300 lei, and her child received a gift of 5,000 euros. In the list of immovable assets, there is an apartment with an area of 47 m2, purchased in 2019 for 300,000 lei. The candidate also owns two cars, a 2010 Mercedes Vito registered in her husband's name, and a VW Jetta purchased in 2021.

Responsabilities of bashkan

We note that for the electoral campaign, candidates are allowed to spend up to 40 lei per voter. Each registered candidate is required to submit financial reports every week. The Governor (bashkan) is the supreme official of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia. The Governor is in charge of all public administration authorities in the autonomy. The Governor issues decisions and orders that are enforceable throughout Gagauzia and come into force upon publication. The elections for the Governor are held once every four years. According to electoral legislation, for the elections to take place, the voter turnout must be at least 50%+1. It should be noted that several candidates in the race are requesting that the electoral threshold be reduced, as the participation rate is very low, and the number of inhabitants is small.

The President of the Electoral Commission of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, Iana Covalenco, stated to that the institution does not have well-defined mechanisms to intervene in case of certain violations, as the electoral code of the autonomy has not been updated since 2015.

Therefore, warning or sanctioning an electoral candidate is only done by the CECG based on complaints. So far, the CECG has not received any complaints.

We note that the elections for the Governor (bashkan) of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia are scheduled for April 30th. At the same time, deputies for the Popular Assembly of Gagauzia will be elected in the Vulcănești and Cioc-Maidan constituencies. The current bashkan, Irina Vlah, held this position for two consecutive terms and therefore cannot run for this position again.

This investigation was carried out under the project "Investigative Journalists Against Propaganda and Disinformation" by the Center for Investigative Journalism, with the support of International Media Support from Denmark

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