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Moldova's government, stressed by war in neighboring Ukraine, undergoes a shakeup

Moldovan Prime Minister designate Dorin Recean waits as President Maia Sandu (left) announces he is appointed to form a new government in Chisinau, Moldova, on Friday.
Aurel Obreja
/
AP
Moldovan Prime Minister designate Dorin Recean waits as President Maia Sandu (left) announces he is appointed to form a new government in Chisinau, Moldova, on Friday.

CHISINAU, Moldova — Moldova's president tapped her defense and security adviser, pro-Western economist Dorin Recean, to succeed Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita who unexpectedly resigned Friday, 18 months into a tenure sorely tested by the war in neighboring Ukraine.

President Maia Sandu told a news conference that members of Gavrilita's ruling Party of Action and Solidarity, or PAS, accepted her choice of Recean as the new prime minister.

Recean, 48, who served as interior minister between 2012-2015, will have 15 days to form a new government to present to Parliament for a confidence vote. PAS has a majority in Parliament.

"I know that we need unity and a lot of work to get through the difficult period we are facing. The difficulties of 2022 postponed some of our plans, but they did not stop us," President Sandu said, adding that in 2023 she wants to focus on revamping key areas such as Moldova's economy and justice sector.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago, Moldova, a former Soviet republic of about 2.6 million people, has sought to forge closer ties with its Western partners. Last June, it was granted European Union candidate status, the same day as Ukraine.

Recean said he would "proceed immediately" with setting up a new government and that his main focus will be to introduce "order and discipline" in Moldova's institutions, breathe new life into the economy and ensure peace and stability.

Following her resignation, Gavrilita, a 41-year-old economist appointed prime minister in August 2021, told a news conference that her government "would have been able to move forward more and faster" had it garnered the same support and trust domestically as it did from other European countries.

Gavrilita's premiership was marked by a long string of problems. These include an acute energy crisis after Moscow dramatically reduced supplies to Moldova and skyrocketing inflation in the wake of the war in Ukraine. Compounding that has been missiles from the war that have traversed its skies and missile debris that has been discovered on its territory.

She also said that no one expected her government "would have to manage so many crises caused by Russian aggression in Ukraine."

"I took over the government with an anti-corruption, pro-development and pro-European mandate at a time when corruption schemes had captured all the institutions and the oligarchs felt untouchable," Gavrilita said. "We were immediately faced with energy blackmail, and those who did this hoped that we would give in."

"The bet of the enemies of our country was that we would act like previous governments, who gave up energy interests, who betrayed the national interest in exchange for short-term benefits," she added.

On Friday, after Moldovan authorities confirmed another missile briefly crossed the country's skies from the war next door, State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters in Washington that "Russia has for years supported influence and destabilization campaigns in Moldova, which often involve weaponizing corruption to further its goals."

Sandu thanked Gavrilita on Friday for her "enormous sacrifice and efforts to lead the country in a time of so many crises."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press