The Republic of Moldova suspended the broadcasting of six pro-Russian TV channels until the end of the state of emergency, having been active in the country since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine carried out by the Russian Federation.
The decision of the Commission for Emergency Situations implies that these TV channels, in particular, covered the situation in Ukraine incorrectly. In fact, this decision resembles the experience of Ukraine, which in 2021, by decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, stopped broadcasting TV channels affiliated with pro-Russian politicians (the so-called Medvedchuk pool, including such channels as “112”, Newsone and Zik).
Sanctions were introduced against broadcasters because they had been funded by people from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and from the Russian Federation.
On December 16, the Commision for Emergency Situations suspended the license for six pro-Russian TV channels “NTV-Moldova”, Accent TV, Orhei TV, TV6, Primul in Moldova, RTR Moldova. The owners of these six banned channels are from Moldova and the Russian Federation, and all of them have been affiliated with pro-Russian forces in the country.
Vicious connections, money from Sberbank and a fugitive oligarch
TV channels Primul in Moldova and Accent TV have recently changed management and have become the property of the company Telesistem TV SRL, a subsidiary of the Russian company “Media Invest Service”. Arina Korshikova became the new general director of Telesistem TV SRL in 2022.
Before that, in 2015, she was one of the donors to the election campaign of Ilan Shor sentenced to seven years in prison in Moldova in the infamous “billion dollar theft” case. Shor still hides in Israel, and the US has recently imposed sanctions on him.
It was discovered in Moldova in 2015 that about a billion dollars had been taken abroad from three banks (Banca de Economii, Banca Sociala and Unibank). The mentioned financial institutions form almost half of the country’s banking sector. The banks were liquidated after a large-scale scam.
According to the decision of the National Bank of Moldova, the international company Kroll was engaged in the investigation of the situation, and the Parliament of Moldova created a special commission to find out all the circumstances of the theft.
Two more TV channels close to the ȘOR Party, whose leader Ilan Shor hides in Israel, TV6 (formerly Central Television) and Orhei TV, are owned by Media Resource SRL. Nominally, the company is fully owned by Dmitry Kitoroage.
Kitoroage was a candidate for the ȘOR Party in the 2019 parliamentary elections and also financed the party. He was also the host of programs on Sputnik radio, the notorious Kremlin mouthpiece.
Media Resource SRL was founded, in turn, by another company called Klassika Media SRL. Its sole owner is Iryna Tsvyk, and Kitoroage serves as its manager.
Prior to that, Klassika Media SRL was owned by Iryna Tsvyk’s mother, Margarita Tsvyk. Her husband was Vladimir Novosadyuk, director of the Sputnik Moldova agency. Both were mentioned in the report made by Kroll in the case of embezzlement of billions in the banking system of Moldova.
An element of a more complicated game
The reason for the closure of the TV channels was official accusations of distorting information about the war in Ukraine and spreading disinformation. The licenses were finally revoked on December 19. At the same time, one of the six TV channels, namely “RTR Moldova”, has already appealed to the court against the decision of the Commission.
In fact, the mentioned TV channels rather simply ignored the atrocities committed by the Russians in Ukraine, which is no less manipulation, but at the same time, all six channels did their best to destabilize the situation in Moldova.
Ilan Shor stands behind the destabilization of the situation in the form of anti-government protests, which have been lasting for more than six months. The aforementioned media companies promoted the desired picture about the demonstrations, the so-called opposition, and “the people, who reached rock bottom”, in different forms.
Organized demonstrations began in Gagauzia in the summer, and then they were held in Chisinau in the fall. People from all regions of Moldova, including youths, who provoked clashes with officers of law enforcement agencies, were transferred to the demonstrations en masse. One of the central narratives of the protests was the call for Maya Sandu’s bowing down to the ruler of the Russian Federation.
There is an interesting detail. Members of the ȘOR Party and pro-Russian socialists did not participate in protests together, keeping a certain distance. This distance is a fiction evidenced by the ownership structure of these TV channels.
Ilan Shor has recently announced a “technical pause”, before the suspension of broadcasting of pro-Kremlin channels. This announcement implied that the main figures were to return with new ideas about the protests in the country. These new ideas appeared.
And the faces are the same
In general, the media circles of Moldova reacted to the ban ambiguously. A number of journalists expressed approval of the decision, while others condemned the Сommission’s decision, evaluating the situation exclusively through the prism of freedom of speech.
A separate cohort of media people, namely pro-Russian journalists, began to spread statements that the channels had been closed because of the broadcasting language. Moreover, certain people, perhaps the most cynical, declared that in fact they loved Ukraine very much, and that is why they kept silent about the murders of Ukrainians during their broadcasts.
At the same time, they add that someone may come to “protect” the employees of pro-Kremlin mouthpieces in Moldova after the broadcasting ban. This is a hint or a call for another protest.
In general, pro-Russian journalists strive to show as if the Sandu government limited the rights of the Russian-speaking population, but pro-Russian is by no means equal to Russian-speaking. Thus, the internal political situation is now being destabilized according to the idea that Sandu is now a “dictator”.
As expected, Russian influence groups came out with statements of support, accusing the current government, in particular, President Maya Sandu, of establishing an “authoritarian regime.” It will not be surprising if this becomes a new protest narrative reinforced by journalists affiliated with Ilan Shor.
The representatives of the following organizations were the first to support the pro-Russian channels: “Association of Russian-speaking Journalists of Moldova” represented by Yulia Semenova, who is also a member of Mark Tkachuk’s “The Collective Action Party – Civic Congress”, “Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots”, “International Union of Free Journalists” represented by Mykola Kostyrkin.
Moldovan law enforcement officers discovered the flags of the Russian Federation, cold weapons and symbols of the so-called “Special military operation” during the search of the house of Mykola Kostyrkin in the first days of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into Ukraine. Moreover, socialists, for example, Tkachuk, the Governor of Gagauzia Iryna Vlah, deputy of the Gagauz assembly Viktor Petrov, with whom Mykola Kostyrkin is affiliated, also support the pro-Russian channels.
An extremely united opposition
Pro-Russian groups prefer doing the three following activities:
- intimidating citizens of Moldova that banning pro-Russian media will become a pretext for war;
- showing employees of banned TV channels as “victims of the Sandu regime”;
- promoting the narrative about the need to unify the so-called opposition, namely, pro-Russian parties, which remained formally separate from each other until recently, but in fact, have been coordinating their actions for a long time.
Political parties, positioning themselves as opposition, held consultations within the framework of the “General Agenda” platform on October 11. The participants of the platform were “The Collective Action Party – Civic Congress”, “Party of Socialists”, “Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova”, Ion Ceban, the mayor of the capital of the country and the leader of the party “National Alternative Movement” (Mișcarea alternativa națională — MAN), as well as Ion Kiku, the leader of the Party of Development and Consolidation of Moldova and ex-prime minister of Moldova.
During these consultations, Mark Tkachuk, the leader of “The Collective Action Party – Civic Congress”, which includes the aforementioned Yulia Semenova, announced the launch of a platform for training “competent” activists to achieve their goals in a “non-violent” way.
But it is worth paying special attention to the intensification of the protest actions carried out by the “Party of Socialists” in the specific regions of Moldova.
The last demonstration was held in Ungeny, Kagul, Soroky. Moreover, a concert for the Day of the Unknown Soldier was held in Beltsy, with
the support of the Russian Embassy in the Republic of Moldova and the Russian House. Minor children dressed in the uniform of the Soviet Union Army took part in this concert. Sandu criticized this event, calling on the leadership of the Information and Security Service of the Republic of Moldova to pay attention to this.