Patriotic purloining outfoxes the West

September 23, 2005

Officials in Moldova's breakaway pro-Moscow region of Transnistria are drawing comfort from the thought that Western money aimed at Transnistrian university students is being creamed off by corrupt non-governmental organisations.

Transnistria seceded unilaterally from Moldova in 1990, proclaiming itself the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic, but it remains unrecognised by any other state. Its Government, led by President Igor Smirnov, is nostalgic for the Soviet era and seeks support from Russia.

Dmitriy Soin, head of the Transnistrian branch of the National Strategy Institute of Russia, claims that the country's students are being targeted by Western governments as a potential "battering ram" for a pro-Western revolution in the self-proclaimed state in the wake of democracy movements in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

Mr Soin, a major in the Transnistrian Security Ministry, says that the West was obsessed with undermining Transnistrian-Russian ties and denigrating the achievements of the Soviet era in the run-up to the next Transnistrian parliamentary elections in December.

He cited a British Department for International Development £5 million budget for the democratisation of Transnistria as a cover for funding pro-Western student resistance groups.

Some 20 western-funded organisations operate in the state, but Mr Soin said they had little chance of success. Transnistria made its choice 15 years ago and, he said, "patriotic" youth movements are growing.

Moreover, he said, little of the pro-democracy funding reaches its target.

Corruption in Transnistria is so rife that up to 25 per cent of funds are creamed off at every level of the recipient NGOs' administration, leaving what he said are "only kopeks" for the "coloured revolution".

Mr Soin admitted that the Transnistrian authorities were partly to blame because massive student rallies in favour of secession in the early 1990s led them to assume that they could always rely on student support.

As a result, little attention was subsequently given to youth policy and the West was able not only to attract students with offers of foreign travel and exchanges, it was even able to set up a legal advice clinic on the campus of Transnistria State University.

This initiative was nipped in the bud, Mr Soin said, and "in good time both the students and university leadership realised what the essence of that project was". He added that the deployment of Western funds in the university has been "severely restricted".

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