Reanimation of propaganda reflexes. Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

“There is no doubt that propaganda should be combated. The problem is the current government, regrettably, offers the propagandists multiple pretexts for their subversive activities to serve the interests of the dictatorial regime of Putin, on which the PACE adopted the mentioned Resolution. In this connection, the government should be mercilessly criticized for the committed mistakes through which it endangers the European course of the Republic of Moldova...

Storm in a teacup...

A particular kind of press in the Republic of Moldova does not get tired of expressing its concern about democratic backsliding in the country and does it reasonably, but does it in a biased way and distorts the general picture of the sociopolitical processes in the country. Among the most recent examples is the publication of a series of articles of the kind: Which of the media institutions in the Republic of Moldova will reflect the criticism of the PACE members to the PAS regime? Or another example: PACE members note the failure of the pre-vetting and justice sector reform. Indeed, why shouldn’t the media institutions in the Republic of Moldova not widely cover the criticism leveled by particular members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) at the government?

In fact, a number of publications that are mainly pro-Russian covered the given issues. The intended propaganda impact is something else and deserved to be treated. It would have definitely been perfect if the neutral and pro-government press had referred to the given issues. Surely, their correct covering necessitates some effort, but it is actually not worth the effort. What is worth doing is conducting a case study of the propaganda effort. The point is Prime Minister Dorin Recean himself recently declared, even if in a specific context, that „... there are shortcomings in justice and this sector pulls us back...”

But let’s return to the case study. It’s true that on October 23, 2023, Written Declaration No.786 of a group of 21 MPs of the PACE was published on the Assembly’s official website. Surprises start from here. The first surprise is that there is no information about the given declaration in the news section of the PACE’s website. Why is it absent? Probably because the issuing of declaration by the PACE MPs is an ordinary matter and usually does not include any attractive element for the general public. If it’s so, it is important to determine the hierarchy of the documents adopted by the PACE. Respectively, this institution as an entity adopts three types of documents in the following hierarchical order by importance:

  • Recommendations that contain proposals addressed to the Committee of Ministers, the implementation of which is within the competence of governments;
  • Resolutions that embody decisions by the Assembly on questions, which it is empowered to put into effect;
  • Opinions that are expressed by the Assembly on questions put to it by the Committee of Ministers, such as the admission of new member States to the Council of Europe, draft conventions, etc.

Also, the PACE adopts so-called working documents, such as: committee reports; motions; written declarations; written questions, etc. Respectively, from the viewpoint of the hierarchy of the document adopted by the PACE, written declarations allow members of the Assembly to give formal expression to their views on matters within the competence of the Council of Europe. They shall be signed by at least twenty representatives or substitutes of four nationalities and two political parties. So, the authors of the declaration titled “Violation of democratic norms and rule of law backsliding in the Republic of Moldova” managed to gather 21 supporters from 13 states, who represent two political groups – Socialists/Greens, the Unified European Left, and the unaffiliated group. None of the members of the other parliamentary groups – People’s Conservative and Liberal MPs – supported the given declaration. This way, out of 602 PACE MPs, the declaration was supported by approximately 3.5%. So, it goes to a kind of storm in a teacup that should allegedly become a test for the press in the country.

Birds of a feather flock together...

When all kinds of declarations are published, especially from high rostrums, their initiators come to the forefront. In the given case, it goes to the MP of the Bloc of Communists and Socialists (BCS), Constantin Starysh. Evidently, the declaration was also signed by two of his mates from the BCS – Vlad Batrîncea and Adela Răilean. The other signatories are foreigners. What should be mentioned in this context? Firstly, MP Starysh initiated the given declaration in two weeks after on October 5, 2023, he was in the focus on the Valdai platform where he asked President Putin about the future relations of Russia with the West and the Republic of Moldova. Starysh’s interest in the policies pursued by Putin in Russia and at international level took shape at the November 2022 edition of the Valdai club, where Starysh did his best to employ his flattering zeal and please Vladimir Putin.

From the aforementioned, it results that the press of the Republic of Moldova, which undertook to cover the adoption of the declaration of the PACE group of MPs, should have also covered the context in which the initiative of MP Starysh appeared so as to avoid partiality. Also, those who would undertake to cover the political activities of Constantin Starysh and also of the other two BCS mates of his should emphasize that both Constantin Starîș and Adela Răilean became Communist MPs owing to their propaganda efforts in favor of the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM), when the latter was in power.

Those who forgot or didn’t know should be informed that Starysh during the two electoral cycles had served as the chief propagandist of the PCRM, who fulfilled his duties through the agency of his own program, “Resonance”, on NIT TV channel. As the effort made by NIT seemed insufficient to it, the administration of the PCRM decided to promote Adela Răilean to the post of director of the public TV channel “Moldova 1”. It happened after a number of touching interviews conducted by Missis Răilean in great consensus with the then President of the Republic of Moldova Vladimir Voronin. But the whole propaganda construct collapsed in 2009, together with the collapse of the PCRM, especially after the distribution of the propaganda film “Attack on Moldova”, which was made by Constantin Starysh and which sickened even an important segment of the Communist voters. Over ten years have passed since that collapse, but the leader of the PCRM, Vladimir Voronin, hasn’t forgotten about the propaganda services and zeal of the two representatives, promoting them in the party and in Parliament.

The press that undertook to cover the initiative of MP Starysh at the recent PACE session should have also referred to the way in which the BCS MPs acted with regard to the adoption of PACE Resolution no.2519 of October 13, 2023, titled: Examining the legitimacy and legality of the ad hominem term-limit waiver for the incumbent President of the Russian Federation which says that Vladimir Putin’s rule of almost 25 years in Russia turned the country into a de facto dictatorship that “constitutes a threat to the international peace and security”. The propagandists and the pro-Russian press didn’t say anything about this Resolution, even if we convinced ourselves that unlike the declarations, the resolutions are documents that are put into practice by the PACE. 

And one more thing. If the declaration initiated by Starysh is a sincere manifestation of the concern about the democratic backsliding in the Republic of Moldova, which was supported by 18 foreign MPs, it is important to know how the BCS MPs voted in the case of the PACE Resolution on the release from jail of Russian politician, Alexei Navalny, given the ECHR judgment in this regard. Or we can presume that Starysh’s initiative is nothing else but a service provided to dictator Putin by the BCS group and a small group of Leftists of the PACE. Birds of a feather flock together! There is nothing unordinary here. The PACE is large, even if it is not as large as the Garden of God.

Reiteration of propaganda procedures

The story about the initiative of MP Starysh is nothing but reiteration of propaganda procedures that had been earlier tested in the Republic of Moldova by propagandists, when they make a mountain out of a molehill. For example, searches in the virtual space help us to find a report by the Coalition 2005 for the monitoring of the parliamentary elections of that year on the manipulations by the administration of Moldpres Agency during the Communist rule, which published a news item titled: “European Parliament considers the foreign financing for Coalition 2005 represents interference in the internal affairs of Moldova”. If we do a simple search, we find out that it was actually the statement of one Greek Communist, Thanasis Pafilis, who became a member of the European Parliament on February 23, 2005 and who stated: “In the case of Moldova, hypocrisy towards the democratic process indeed goes beyond any limit. If someone needs to be denounced, it is the open interference of the U.S. with $1.7 million financing for Coalition 2005, which supports the opposition to the current government. This is the big problem of foreign interference in the internal affairs of Moldova… In the case of Moldova, hypocrisy towards the democratic process indeed goes beyond any limit. None of the submitted motions has the courage to refer to this problem. You are not interested in democracy or in real democratic elections. You want to subjugate Moldova…”. This is how Communist solidarity is manifested, through invective.

The given example shows how the statement of one Communist MP was easily, without any remorse, attributed by Moldpres to the whole European Parliament. And it happened the next day after the EU – Moldova Action Plan was signed. The given agency was then managed by a character who was not only an ordinary, but a very skillful Communist propagandist who later became the main propagandist of the regime of Plahotniuc. The propagandist’s capacities became known when he was convicted for causing damage of millions of lei to the given agency.

What is yet curious is that the given character is now one of the main promoters of the declaration initiated by MP Starysh. As we can see, the propaganda reflexes acquired while serving the Communist regime are easily reanimated in accordance with the new times, especially if there is demand for something like this.


There is no doubt that propaganda should be combated. The problem is the current government, regrettably, offers the propagandists multiple pretexts for their subversive activities to serve the interests of the dictatorial regime of Putin, on which the PACE adopted the mentioned Resolution. In this connection, the government should be mercilessly criticized for the committed mistakes through which it endangers the European course of the Republic of Moldova.

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