6 min read

Don't forget Gagauzia.

When I was reporting on events in Moldova this week, a source asked me why no one was talking about Gagauzia.

"You should look on the right bank of the Nistru [Dniester] River. Look at the decisions taken by the Bascan [governor] of Gagauzia, the National Assembly of Gagauzia, and the left-wing leaders. Here lies a source of insecurity," said Victoria Rosa, a member of the Foreign Policy Association of Moldova's board.

"The Moldovan national authorities have banned the symbols used by the Russian Federation during the war in Ukraine, including the orange and black St. George’s ribbon, which is associated with the Second World War victory," Rosa continued.

"Afterwards, Gagauzia’s Bascan, Irina Vlah, signed a document adopted by the Gagauz National Assembly allowing the use of the ribbon on Gagauz territory, thus violating national legislation. The Gagauz leaders continue to play the card of social division, thus showing loyalty to the Russian Federation even though for years they have been receiving development assistance from the EU and EU member states."

I admit that Gagauzia is not a region I think about very much. Suddenly everyone seems to be talking about Transnistria and whether Russia's war will spread there. But Gagauzia is still somewhat off the radar.

So here's a quick primer on the place:

WHO: Gagauzia is an autonomous region within the Republic of Moldova. It's populated by the Gagauz, a Turkic Orthodox Christian people. The population is estimated to be a little under 200,000.

WHERE: Gagauzia has four enclaves within Moldova, three of which border Ukraine.

WHEN: In the final years of the Soviet Union, the Gagauz Movement began calling for autonomy for Gagauzia. Local authorities declared Gagauzia a Soviet Republic separate from Moldova in 1990. That didn't exactly stick. In 1994, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Moldova's government granted Gagauzia autonomous status.

WHAT: Like Transnistrians, the Gagauz are considered pro-Russian,, and the population is susceptible to Russian propaganda.

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What I'm writing:

• Republican Senator Steve Daines was one of the first U.S. lawmakers to travel to Ukraine since the war began. I sat down with him to discuss why and how he decided to call off a trip to Moldova and Romania at the last minute and drive into Ukraine without any security plan [This article is unlocked].

• I wrote about what's happening in Moldova and whether Russia's war in Ukraine will entangle the pro-Russian breakaway territory of Transnistria. Ukrainian intelligence officials have been warning that Russia could use Transnistria to launch an attack on the city of Odesa. They also warn that Moscow is preparing a complete takeover of the region.

• I was on National Journal's podcast Quorum Call talking about appropriations for Ukraine, the lend-lease bill, and whether the U.S. can use oligarchs' assets to rebuild Ukraine.

What I'm reading:

This collage is by Methyl Sampathkumar. She made it in 2020 to represent her frustration with former President Donald Trump. You can buy her art here. I have this print hanging in my living room.

• Russian forces deported almost 40,000 people from Mariupol to Russia or the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said during a briefing. CNN has the report.

• Open Democracy has an excellent piece on how the war has impacted Ukraine's homeless population.

• The chief of the general staff of the Russian military, General Valery Gerasimov, visited front-line positions in eastern Ukraine late last week to “change the course” of Russia’s flagging offensive there, the New York Times reports.

• Denmark and Sweden are summoning Russia's ambassadors after a Russian spy plane violated the airspace of both countries, Radio Free Europe reports.

The war in Ukraine is aggravating a “triple food, energy, and financial crisis” across Africa, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said during a press conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall.

• Bulgaria's Prime Minister Kiril Petkov wants every Bulgarian to donate a month's salary to buy weapons for Ukraine, Andalou Agency reports.

• Bulgaria's Pro-Russian Socialists threaten to quit the coalition government after Prime Minister Petkov's recent visit to Kyiv, Balkan Insight reports.

Dritan Abazović became Montenegro's new Prime Minister, leading a minority government focused on joining the EU, Reuters reports.

• The European Union will offer Hungary and Slovakia exemptions from its Russian oil embargo, Reuters reports. The two countries will be permitted to continue buying Russian crude oil until the end of 2023 under existing contracts, an EU source said.

• Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán warned that the European Commission’s proposed phaseout of Russian oil imports would amount to “dropping a nuclear bomb on the Hungarian economy," the Washington Post reports.

The Czech Republic will also seek an exemption period to the EU's proposed embargo of Russian oil, gaining time for pipeline capacities to be increased, Reuters reports, citing Prime Minister Petr Fiala.

• Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told Pope Francis last month that the Russians plan to end the war in Ukraine by May 9th, the Victory Day holiday that commemorates the defeat of Nazi Germany, the pontiff told an Italian newspaper. Hungary Today has a report in English.  

• State-backed hackers from Russia and China are increasing their efforts to target critical infrastructure in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, according to the latest cyber threat update from Google.

• The United Kingdom could impose direct rule over the British Virgin Islands after the Caribbean territory’s premier was arrested in Miami on suspicion of drug running, the Guardian reports.

• Northern Ireland is on the cusp of having a nationalist leader for the first time in its history after Sinn Fein, once considered the political wing of the IRA, emerged as the largest party in regional elections, CNN reports.

• Spanish authorities detected Pegasus spyware on the mobile phones of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Defence Minister Margarita Robles, Reuters reports.  

• Biden asked Congress to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to make it easier for highly educated Russians to obtain visas to work in the U.S., according to a section of the administration’s Ukraine supplemental budget requested submitted to lawmakers last week. CNN has the report.

• Two-time former Brazilian President Lula Inacio da Silva told TIME magazine that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin share the blame for the war in Ukraine.

• Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's son Laureano, an influential figure in the country's leftist government, reached out quietly to the Biden administration in recent months seeking to re-engage with the U.S., two Washington sources told Reuters.

• Russian mercenaries in Mali have been linked to massacres in which several hundred civilians have died, raising new fears about the impact of Moscow’s intensifying interventions on the stability and security of countries across the continent, the Guardian reports.

Forces identified by witnesses as Russian have "summarily executed, tortured, and beaten civilians" in the Central African Republic since 2019, a report by Human Rights Watch alleged.

• The son of Philippines’ dictator Ferdinand Marco is running in the elections and is expected to return the Marcos dynasty to the Malacañang Palace more than three decades after the family plundered the country’s coffers before fleeing a mass uprising against their corrupt and brutal rule. CNN has the report.

• Hamas claimed responsibility for a deadly shooting that left an Israeli security guard dead at the entrance of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank last week. It was the first time Hamas has claimed such an attack in the occupied West Bank since 2018, the Associated Press reports.

What the State Department says:

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