Acting as the chief of state, Igor Dodon, and his party have designed some of their electoral campaigns based on arguments that the Republic of Moldova was in danger of being captured by foreigners. They also insisted that the domestic NGOs with international funding represented a threat for the country.
However, in late 2021 Igor Dodon lost Moldovan tax-payers’ confidence and jumped himself onto an NGO which was funded by business people close to the Kremlin. His new job also paid dozens of times better than during his tenure as president of the nation. To be exact, he received a handsome 202,000 lei (more than 10,000 US dollars) a month, an amount he approved alone for himself. A part of that money came from people who do business with the Russian government.
The teams of RISE Moldova and Dossier Center have found, in an investigative partnership, six bank wires from Russia to Moldova, with the association led by the former Socialist president acting as the beneficiary. The total amount accounted for more than 20 million Russian rubles, which is equivalent to some 5 million Moldovan lei or approximately 300,000 dollars.
OPPONENTS OF FOREIGN RULE
Wednesday, 30 June 2021, as the parliamentary election campaign in Moldova nears its height, the press office of the Communists and Socialists Bloc releases a public call for a march titled “I love Moldova.” It said, “everyone who wishes to live in an independent, sovereign, and prospering country, where the government works for the benefits of its citizens, rather than other countries,” should be gearing up in Chisinau.
For a few months during that campaign, Igor Dodon and his buddies in the Socialists Party kept explaining to voters that “the total loss of independence and the fall under foreign rule were the biggest threat for Moldova.”
“Moldova is in danger. No to foreign rule” – such Socialist banners could be seen overlooking the streets of the Moldovan capital since May 2021, two months before the early parliamentary election.
As the head of state, Mr. Dodon was a tireless troubadour against the “foreign influence through non-governmental organizations.”
“We are going to downgrade the country to a banana republic with dozens of thousands of NGOs that rule Moldova. Why would we need then a parliament, or a president? A couple of NGOs, full of foreign cash, would rule here…” the Socialist president shared his fears before cameras a year ahead of election.
Even earlier, in the autumn of 2020, Socialist lawmaker Bogdat Tirdea gathered a press conference to show a book about Moldovan NGOs and media outlets, which – he claimed – were funded by international donors and “widely got involved in the republic’s internal affairs.”
SECRET OPERATION “UAMR”
The same Wednesday, 30 June 2021, while the Socialists and Communists asked voters to take part in the march “I love Moldova,” the Public Services Agency issued a registration certificate to an NGO called “Moldovan-Russian Business Union”. Its chairman and beneficiary (!) were Igor Dodon himself, although he admitted this fact only months later.
Shortly after its registration, millions from abroad began pouring into the Union’s bank accounts. Neither Mr. Dodon nor his Socialist fellows would talk on this subject. During the march, however, addressing his followers from the square between the Parliament and Presidential Administration, the Socialist leader demanded “the removal [from government] of traitors who have sold themselves to others, who work against the Moldovan people and against [Moldova’s] statehood.”
Mrs. Zinaida Grecianii, at that time speaker of parliament and a party fellow of Igor Dodon, continued the same idea – “We don’t need someone from another country to push their values. Those values are not ours!”
And yet the Socialists will embrace “foreign values,” sometime later and straight into the bank accounts of Dodon’s association. Each tranche will be followed by new anti-Western statements from the Moldovan president and his party members.
July 2021. During the electoral march “I love Moldova”, Igor Dodon – secretly holding the position of chairman of an NGO – addresses the participants gathered between the parliament and presidential administration with calls to remove the traitors who sold themselves to foreigners.
NGO TO DEFEND RUSSIAN INTERESTS
The first official information about the new association was published by the website Delovaya Rossija (Business Russia) on 5 July, the next day after the march in Chisinau. A press release titled “Delovaya Rossija has become a co-founder of the Moldovan-Russian Business Union” says that one of its primary goals was to defend the rights and legal interests of entrepreneurs in Russia and Moldova.
The foreword of the release was signed by Igor Chayka, a son of Russia’s former prosecutor-general and “business ambassador” of the Union in Moldova and Transnistria. Mr. Chayka is also the chairman of the collective board of Rossotrudnichestvo.
Rossotrudnichestvo, according to Dossier Center, is Kremlin’s main engine for promotion of Russian interest via the so-called soft power and runs offices in 134 countries. De facto, it’s an umbrella organization for Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and the External Intelligence Service (SVR).
In the same press release, Mr. Dodon was quoted as the chairman of the Union: “The Russian Federation is Moldova’s strategic partner, therefore the development of multilateral cooperation – and firstly economic and business – was and will remain my priority.”
In Moldova, the Socialist Party ignored the above-mentioned press release and Igor Dodon will admit the fact only three and a half months later.
RUSSIAN BUSINESS INTERESTS OF DODON FAMILY
Igor Chayka, who was credited as a “business ambassador” for Delovaya Rossija, is the younger son of Yuri Chayka. The latter had served as Russia’s prosecutor-general in 2006-2020. Igor’s elder brother – Artyom – is a businessman too. In December 2017, the US added Artyom to the Magnitsky Act list for “using the position of his father and the senior’s capacity of rewarding subordinates, for the purpose to unlawfully obtain government assets, public contracts, and to exert pressure on business competitors.”
Igor Chayka may be considered a strategic business partner of the Dodon family. Ever since Igor Dodon took over as Moldova’s president, his brother Alexandru teamed up with Mr. Chayka junior in to firms based in Moscow. One called Arhplay Development OOO (Ltd) was about construction and rental of buildings, the other – PEO OOO – collected non-hazardous waste.
In October 2022, Igor Chayka and three Russian election manipulation technologists (Yuri Gudilin, Olga Grak, and Leonid Gonin) got sanctioned by the US for their role in Moldovan elections. DOC
”Chayka brokered an alliance between supporters of Ilan Shor and the Moldovan Socialist Party, represented by Igor Dodon, the former President of Moldova who was recently indicted for corruption by Moldovan authorities. In exchange for the promise of Russian support in the election, Chayka obtained backing for legislation preferred by the Kremlin, including a law to strip Moldova’s president of control of the country’s intelligence agency. The Russian government used Chayka’s companies as a front to funnel money to the collaborating political parties in Moldova. Some of these illicit campaign funds were earmarked for bribes and electoral fraud,” says a press release issued by the US Treasury Department and published on the website of the US Embassy to Moldova.
FUNDING FROM OUTSIDE
With the support of their colleagues at Dossier Center, RISE Moldova journalists have obtained bank extracts regarding the movement of money from Delovaya Rossija’s accounts in Sberbank, in 2021 and 2022.
Money wires from Delovaya Rossija’s accounts in Sberbank onto the accounts of the Moldovan-Russian Business Union.
RUB MDL USD
11 October 2021 2.8 million Around 680 thousand Around 39 thousand
06 December 2021 2.8 million Around 680 thousand Around 39 thousand
28 December 2021 Around 4 million Around 967 thousand 55 thousand
22 February 2022 6.1 million 1.4 million 72 thousand
25 March 2022 2.6 million 492 thousand 27 thousand
19 April 2022 (returned) Around 2.6 million 585 thousand 32 thousand
The data in our possession show that between October 2021 and late April 2022 – that will be seven months – the Union led by Igor Dodon received more than 200 rubles (some 5 million lei) onto its Moldovan accounts.
5 October 2021, Chisinau. From his posture of member of parliament and leader of the Socialists Party, Igor Dodon, launched a call on the head of the European Union Delegation to Moldova and other foreign diplomats “to stay away from the country’s domestic affairs.”
“We are seeing coordinated attempts of Western diplomats and NGOs funded from outside to exert pressure on the justice and law-enforcement bodies of sovereign Moldova, with the purpose to advance loyal people in key posts of the courts and to set up foreign control on it,” Dodon’s statement reads in English translation by RISE Moldova.
The same day Igor Chayka puts 2.8 million rubles onto Delovaya Rossija’s account. And the next day, Igor Dodon was already in Moscow for a meeting with Dmitry Kozak, deputy chief of the presidential administration of Vladimir Putin. Mr. Dodon traveled to the Russian capital in his position of chairman of the interparliamentary commission for Moldova-Russia cooperation and member of the Moldova-Russia parliamentary friendship group.
“We’ve established the importance of securing a positive dynamic in the fields we share reciprocal interests,” Mr. Dodon told reporters without elaborating on the matter.
The same day, Igor Dodon signed an agreement with Pavel Titov, leader of Delovaya Rossija, regarding a donation of 2.8 million rubles for the Moldovan-Russian Business Union. It’s exactly the amount transferred by Mr. Chayka to the Russian organization.
The same day, the Socialists asked voters to join a rally to protest against the suspension of Moldovan Prosecutor-General Alexandr Stoianoglo from office.
“In the circumstances when the government cannot secure food, it proposes us a bad taste show,” said Vladimir Batrincea, a Socialist lawmaker and activist, at a press briefing announcing the rally.
HOW DODON’S ASSOCIATION PASSED REGISTRATION
Alongside with Delovaya Rossija, a founder of the Union is a Socialist-affiliated nonprofit called “For Development of Moldovan Economy EUR-ASIA-Moldova” (EUR-ASIA-Moldova).
EUR-ASIA-Moldova’s decision to be part of the founders emerged at Socialist Party internal conference. Mr. Batrincea was elected its secretary-general and Alla Dolinta was delegated to represent it in the process of registration of the Moldovan-Russian Business Union.
One year later, in July 2022, Mrs. Dolinta tendered her resignation from the Socialist Party, citing disagreement with its stance on the war Russia was waging in Ukraine. At the constitutive assembly dedicated to the foundation of the Union, Delovaya Rossija was represented by Pavel Titov. The latter is the son of Boris Titov, a founder of the organization whom President Putin had named his envoy to the entrepreneurial community in Russia.
DEPARTURE FROM PARLIAMENT FOR SAKE OF MOLDOVA-RUSSIAN RELATIONSHIPS
Three months and a half upon the registration of the Union, Igor Dodon disclosed his plans to dedicate himself to the new association. He also submitted his resignation from the Moldovan parliament and promised to step down from the post of Socialist Party chairman. All for the sake of “consolidation of Moldova-Russia relationships,” in his words.
20 October 2021. Delovaya Rossija chairman Pavel Titov was required by the Moldovan bank where the Union received 2.8 million rubles to justify the purpose of the transfer.
“The legal provenance of these funds is followed by the payer’s bank and this fact excludes the illicit nature of the operation,” Mr. Titov explained in a letter to the bank in Chisinau.
ВEximbank Окт ДР RISE by VladimirThoric
EX-ADVISOR OF PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION
From sources close to Igor Dodon, RISE Moldova has obtained a copy of the agreement regarding the terms of Delovaya Rossija’s donation of 5.6 million rubles to the Moldovan-Russian Business Union. It bears the signature of N.S.Kagramanyan, chief of the organization’s executive committee. For almost 12 years, Nazik Kagramanyan had served as an advisor in the administration of President Putin until 2012 (Department for Cooperation with Nongovernmental and Religious Organizations, Political Parties and Media).
In 2012 she was elected to the post of deputy chairwoman of Delovaya Rossija.
30 November 2021. The Socialist Party website quotes Mr. Dodon as claiming that “the ruling party [Action and Solidarity] is rapidly losing the public credit of confidence.” On that day, Mr. Chayka wires 2.8 million rubles into Delovaya Rossija’s Sberbank account.
The next day, Igor Dodon continues his attacks on the pro-Western government, insinuating that “not one guy beyond the border is interested in Moldovans getting to live better.” Days later, Delovaya Rossija wired a new 2.8-million-ruble tranche to the Union.
Igor Dodon couldn’t help himself to change the tune. “We must communicate with the Russians. […] I suggest the president to forget about her vanity and seek a meeting with Vladimir Putin,” said Dodon with reference to Maia Sandu. He suggested his successor to jump on a dialogue with the Russian Federation in order to make “people live better.”
During the last three months of 2021. The Moldovan-Russian Business Union received more than 9 million rubles from Russia. Whether Igor Dodon kept any money for himself from that amount isn’t clear, instead we have learned what was the size of his remuneration as chairman.
In 2021, the Dodon family officially earned 410,000 lei (some 20.500 dollars). His spouse Galina was the largest contributor to the family budget – 296,000 lei. For the time being, Mr. Dodon has not filed a financial report regarding his reward from the Union he’s been running since June 2021.In the spring of 2022, RISE Moldova obtained an expense sheet from the Union, according to which the organization had planned to spend more than 2.7 million lei in five months of the precedent year.
The expense bill for the year 2022 has increased to more than 9 million lei. The Union’s budget contains a separate heading titled “The reserve fund for social projects and charity,” which is worth 2.1 million rubles, or more than half a million Moldovan lei.
The expense sheet for planned activities of the Moldovan-Russian Business Union for the period January – December 2022 (monthly amount, in lei)
• Official Wage
• Premium Earning
Chairman of the Union
135,000 lei 67,500 lei
40.400 lei + 20.200 lei
Chief of the financial-economic section
15,000 lei + 7,500 lei
Chief of the organizational section
15,000 lei + 7,500 lei
12,000 lei + 6,000 lei
Manager for PR and media
10,000 lei + 5,000 lei
8,000 lei + 4,000 lei
Assistant to deputy chairman
7,000 lei + 3,500 lei
The numbers in the Union’s budget show that the chairman’s remuneration was larger than the amount earmarked for charity for the entire year 2022 (half a million). As much as 1.6 million lei a year was put aside to pay wages to Igor Dodon; it means he received 130,000 lei a month. As if that was not enough, the chairman instituted a premium earning at half that amount: 67,000 lei a month. Thus, his monthly revenue from the Union rose to 202,000 lei.
Dodon-Zarplata-salariu-NGO by VladimirThoric
COORDONATORII DIN RUSIA
RISE Moldova has proof that Mr. Dodon decided by himself how much he should get as basic wage and what should be the size of his pay raise. The document in our possession shows a wage amounting to 202,500 lei a month for Igor Dodon. This is equivalent to around 20 average wages in Moldovan economy or almost 90 minimal retirement pensions.
End of 2021: there are a few days left till New Year’s Eve. On 27 December 2021, Igor Dodon sends a greeting message to Delovaya Rossija celebrating its 20th anniversary. In return, Igor Chayka deposits more cash for “special donations” on the organization’s account: 4 million rubles (about 1 million lei).
The next day, roughly the same amount – 3.9 million rubles – is wired to the account of the Moldovan-Russian Business Union. RISE Moldova asked Delovaya Rossija for comments on its donations but the organization declined.
And it’s not just money getting transferred from Moscow to Chisinau. During the same period, Delovaya Rossija sent a man to take over as a deputy of Igor Dodon in the Union. His name is Vadim Yurchenko, whom intelligence sources for RISE Moldova named “an FSB agent” or “Deployed Employee Unit” – a term minted by Russian security forces for undercover agents who oversee their assets and investments abroad.
Vadim Yurchenko, 39 years old, has held a variety of jobs, from ordinary specialist to deputy director of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, and Rostek Holding (founded by Putin). He also held a managerial position at RAO EES, which currently controls the Cuciurgan Power Station in Transnistria, eastern Moldova, as well as MRSK Center.
We’ve sent a letter to Mr. Yurchenko with enquiries about his suspected relationships with the FSB, but he wouldn’t answer.
It must be said that MRSK Center, an electric networking company, had officially employed Yuri Gudilin, who aided the Moldovan Socialist candidate during 2020 presidential election as one of Russian consultants. A source in the Socialist camp says Gudilin and Yurchenko met in Moldova, too.
In October 2022, Yuri Gudilin and other political consultants such as Olga Grak and Leonid Gonin were added to the American sanctions list for their participation in the Kremlin’s operations. Details, HERE.
The association led by Igor Dodon still has people who had worked with the secret group of Russian election manipulation technologists plotting during the Moldovan presidential campaign in 2020.
He used to be a fellow worker with Yuri Gudilin, a Russian consultant who aided the Socialists during the 2020 presidential election.
Nicolae Fomov, 30 years old, is licensed legal expert from Moldova. In 2020, he represented the Dodon staff at the Central Election Commission. That year, he received counsel from Sergey Galyev, a jurist from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad who was part of the same secret group of Russian consultants. Details, HERE
June 2021. Nicolae Fomov was authorized to submit the required documents for the registration of the Moldovan-Russian Business Union at the Public Services Agency; Igor Dodon later took over the leading role in this NGO. Mr. Fomov simultaneously acted as the representative of the Socialist-Communist bloc at the Central Election Commission during the parliamentary election campaign.
WAR AND FRIENDSHIP WITH PUTIN
22 February 2022. As much as 6.1 million rubles (1.4 million lei) is wired from Russia onto the account of the NGO led by Igor Dodon. The same day, its founders hold a press conference to present the organization.
„Igor Dodon has called on the business circles from the two countries who are interested of establishment and development of partnership relationships to get involved more productively in the Union’s activity,” Delovaya Rossija said in a press release.
Two days later, Russia invaded Ukraine and a full-scale war started. Two months later, Sberbank, which used to transfer money to Mr. Dodon, got slapped with sanctions by the European Union and the US for its role of financial source of income for Putin’s war machine and the massacre in Bucha.
And yet the former Moldovan president continued to support the Russian dictator in public statements, insisting that the government in Chisinau needed cooperation with Moscow and particularly low price for Russian natural gas. The organization went as far as to blame Kiev on its website for the escalation.
The last money transfer took place on 19 April – 2.6 million rubles more. The same day, Mr. Dodon called his followers in social media to join a planned Socialist Party march to mark the Victory Day on 9 May. He asked marchers to wear an orange-black St. George (Russian style) ribbon, which the Moldovan authorities have banned over the aggression in Ukraine.
Other expenses which the Moldovan-Russian Business Union planned for 2022 (total amounts in lei, for 12 months)
Wages for 2022 4,363,245 lei
PR and promotion services 1,200,000 lei (100.000 lei a month)
Office rent 100 square meters for 25 euros per square meter (internet, heating, air conditioning) 875,748 lei (73,000 lei a month)
Reserve fund for social projects and charity 506,100 lei
Representation expenses 318,120 lei (26,500 lei a month)
Apartment rent 246,316 lei (20,526 lei a month)
Office supply 72,000 lei (6,000 lei a month)
However, a few days later after the arrival of Russian money, the Moldovan bank sent back the 2.6 million lei to Delovaya Rossija, citing “compliance with internal policy.” In May, Delovaya Rossija sent the money to the original source – Igor Chayka’s personal account.
Three weeks before this article appeared, RISE Moldova asked Igor Dodon (via Socialists Party’s official email and the NGO’s email) to answer a few questions regarding the activities of the Moldovan-Russian Business Union and its obligations towards Mr. Chayka. Our questions have remained unanswered.
Nor has RISE Moldova succeeded in obtaining an interview with Mr. Chayka via the phone.
In mid-May, Pavel Titov and Nazik Kagramanyan – the chairman and, respectively, head of Delovaya Rossija’s executive committee – were awarded with the medal “For services for Motherland” by Putin. The presidential decree said the two were distinguished for “merits in the realization of social projects and for their public activity.”
A week later, Moldovan law-enforcement officers search the house of Igor Dodon in Chisinau. The ex-president was formally charged with four counts of crime: bribery, acceptance of criminal funds for political purposes, illicit enrichment, and treason.
Already in July, while under arrest at his home, Mr. Dodon continued to defend Vladimir Putin: “I know that many people now think it’s fashionable to rise against Russia. The Moldovan leadership has joined this trend, blaming Russia and Putin for everything. It’s not fair. My opinion is that we have to be friends with Russia. The strategic partnership must be developed.”
Even though the formal goal of Dodon’s NGO is to develop a strategic partnership with Russia, and the Socialist leader has built a credo of multilateral cooperation with focus on economy and business, reality pictures a different story.
Half a year after the press conference that publicly announced the existence of the Moldovan-Russian Business Union, we tried to find out how supporting this organization is regarding business people seeking its assistance in an export operation. A RISE Moldova journalist claiming to be a businessman sent several emails to the Moldovan-Russian Business Union, asking for help to sell his products in the Russian Federation.
It never replied.
Vladimir THORIK (RISE Moldova), Sergey KANEV (Dossier Center)
Contributions: Marcela ZĂMOSTEANU
Editing: Nicolae CUSCHEVICI