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Moldovan PM Says Not Seeking Closer Moscow Ties

Moldovan Prime Minister Valeriu Strelețs sits down for an interview with RFE/RL in Chisinau.

Moldovan Prime Minister Valeriu Strelets has rejected criticism that he is seeking closer economic ties with Russia amid strained relations with Western donors.

Strelets, whose government was sworn in on June 30 by a pro-European coalition, told RFE/RL on August 18 that Moldova’s pro-Western orientation cannot be altered and that his government will work to rebuild the relationship with Western countries damaged by an embarrassing corruption and money siphoning scandal in its banking system last year.

Media reports had accused him of making overtures toward the Kremlin after he spoke last week with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and invited him to visit Chisinau.

But Strelets said that even Western partners "encourage" Moldova to have normal trade relations with Russia when possible.

"I assure you that our [Western] development partners are interested in having a normal commercial and economic relationship between the Republic of Moldova and the Russian Federation," he said.

Others said Strelets only reached out to Medvedev to catch the attention of Western donor countries.

Russia has imposed several bans on imports of wine, fruits, and vegetables from Moldova in recent years to discourage the former Soviet republic from signing an Association Agreement with the EU last summer.

But Russia began to partially lift the embargoes in recent months, particularly for agricultural imports coming from Moldova's Gagauzia region, which favors closer ties with Moscow.