Alegerile parlamentare din 2021 în Republica Moldova -

Referendum on background of explosions

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Igor Botan / August 31, 2006
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Particularities of referendum

Preparations for the September 17-scheduled referendum on joining of Transnistria to Russia or reintegration into Moldova are being finished in the eastern breakaway enclave of Moldova. This referendum has some particularities, unlike the multiple previous plebiscites. If we admitted that the planned referendum has the least of legality, we would establish that it is undermined by modality of preparing the scrutiny:

  1. The questions of the referendum are deliberately formulated to obtain equivocal answers;
  2. More than half a yea ago, the Transnistrian authorities supported by certain circles from the Russian Federation have resorted to falsehood with the participation of private western organisations for the first time, hoping this way to strongly justify the right of “Transnistrian people” to self-determination, but especially to speculate the recent case of separation of Montenegro from Serbia and the eventual independence of Kosovo;
  3. The Transnistrian authorities have violated and continue to violate deliberately the right to free discussion of issues decided at the referendum and under any aspect, thus violating the generally accepted norms in this respect;
  4. The preparations for the referendum take place on background of some doubtful explosions in public transportation in Transnistria, which have tragic consequences for citizens.

The Moldovan authorities, international democratic institutions, the European Union, the United States, neighbouring countries have stated that they do not recognise the Transnistrian referendum. The Russian Federation only hinted that it has another opinion. We consider that the modality of organising the Transnistrian referendum, actions of the separatist authorities annul any claim of validity of the plebiscite, of course even in the hypothesis that it would have a minimal initial legality.

Equivocal formulation of questions for referendum and effects

One of fundamental problems related to organisation of referendums is linked to formulation of questions for the voting. The equivocal formulation of the two questions and the propagandistic actions of the Transnistrian authorities aim to produce the expected result — the independence of the Transnistrian Republic and the subsequent free joining of Transnistria to the Russian Federation. Of course, the Trannsistrian mass media, which is entirely controlled by authorities, do not mention that the generally accepted norms for the conduct of referendums ad plebiscites require that the questions be distinct and clear in order to prevent manipulations and answers with equivocal interpretations. In this context, it should be mentioned that separatist leader Igor Smirnov has publicly said that the formulation of questions was recommended by Russian experts who drew his attention that the Russian legislation allows the incorporation of independent states only into the Russian Federation.

What was mentioned above has raised controversial debates in the Supreme Soviet in Tiraspol as regards the formulation of questions. This happened because the two questions formulated for the referendum are four indeed. As regards the first question, an elementary exercise reveals the fact that the modality of formulation — “Do you support the course of independence of the Transistrian Moldovan Republic and the subsequent free joining of Transnistria to the Russian Federation?” — induces automatically and extra-answer: the consent for the subsequent free joining to the Russian Federation, which automatically becomes an imperative for the separatist authorities. Thus, the option for Transnistria’s independence without its subsequent joining to the Russian Federation is eliminated.

The alternative question “Do you consider rejecting the independence of the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic and subsequently becoming part of Moldova?” also denies the need of existence of Transnistria. An eventual positive answer to this question, like an eventual positive answer to the first question, annuls the need of existence of “independent Transnistria”. The second part of the question on Transistria’s integration into Moldova is needless, but it was necessary from reasons of symmetry in order to justify the second part of the first question. Of course, Transnistria is part of Moldova, a fact admitted inclusively by “the only supporter of Transnistria” — the Russian Federation.

However, the fact that the scheduled referendum annuls the “independence” of Transnistria regardless of its results is important, not the ambiguous formulation of questions. The constitution of Transnistria does not stipulate renunciation to independence, even if we admit that this is the supreme law of an unrecognised entity. Even more, the separatist leader was sworn in to protect the “sovereignty and independence” under Article 69 of the alleged supreme law. Of course, the violation of oath is not a problem for Smirnov, which has initiated the referendum that the Supreme Soviet has later approved. Smirnov did not have problems to obtain the third presidential mandate when another two have expired. The constitution was truly modified then. But this fact was not done for the disputed referendum and it will be probably done post factum. Show must go on! It is important that the “only supporter” of Transnistria accepts the procedure, while subsequent explanations and justifications will appear for sure.

Using falsehood to justify separatism

The separatist regime was born and survives due to the support from outside of Moldova — this is a generally recognised true established by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). However, the Transnistrian authorities and their supporters from outside wanted a minimal legality based on invocation of the internal law. A falsehood was used for this purpose. The story about the use with ill-will of statehood and names of some notable personalities from scientific world in order to justify the right of Transnistria to external self-determination was described in details by publications Jamestown Foundation[1] and The Economist[2]. The shameful withdrawal of names of “authors” of the study “State sovereignty of Pridnetrovskaya Moldovaskaya Respublica (Pridnestrovye) under international law”, published by the so-called International Council for Democratic Institutions and State Sovereignty (ICDISS), which claims to be registered in the United States under the auspices of the so-called Contact Group of the Euro-Atlantic Unit, the refusal of these institutions to answer key questions about their statutes and addresses are only some elements that reveal a network of forgers, producers of fake articles in order to be used with much ado by the Transnistrian propaganda machinery to justify the referendum on withdrawal from Moldova.

The fake making machinery also raises interest. Professor Christopher Borgen of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York (ABCNY) revealed during presentation of the study “Thawing a frozen conflict: legal aspects of the separatist crisis in Moldova”, in Chisinau on July 19 that a group of ABCNY experts visited Moldova in mid-2005 and met with representatives of the Chisinau and Tiraspol authorities. The goal of the visit was linked to elaboration of the report concerned, which is exclusively based on norms of international law and information from official sources. When the study was worked out in early 2006, its draft and conclusions were shared to the Chisinau and Tiraspol authorities. Following were the conclusions of the prestigious association:

  1. Transnistria does not hold the right to external self-determination. The international law does not allow the secession without consent of constitutional authorities of Moldova;
  2. The Transnistrian regime may be treated as one de facto, which has certain rights and obligations. The administration of public property in Transnistria by this regime on basis of the same international law must be treated as one of an occupation regime, while the final disposition of the property is not decided by the current effective control by the occupier and as such, the occupier has the legal duty not to destroy the economic value of the property. Therefore, the privatisation under the auspices of the Transnistrian authorities is illegal while foreign companies participating in privatisation in Transnistria must be sure that they will be sanctioned;
  3. Russia, as third power participating in this conflict, has exceeded its alleged status of mediator and guarantor, being involved in open military, economic and diplomatic support of the separatist regime from Moldova.

Of course, the separatist leaders in Transistria did not like these conclusions and decided to use falsehood in order to anticipate the publication of the ABCNY report. Professor Borgen mentioned some facts:

  1. The alleged study by ICDISS aimed to justify the right of Transnistria to self-determination comes to answer the questions of the ABCNY study by using the same sources of arguing from positions which would contradict these conclusions;
  2. ABCNY experts know the invoked “authors” of the counter-study ICDISS, being in friendly relations with some of them. Asked if they participated in the ICDISS study, they declined their contribution, expressing puzzle and indignation. This fact made the ICDISS representatives turn the points, changing at the beginning the pretension that those invoked are authors of the counter-study, affirming that their previous researches have been used to build counter-arguments and withdrawing completely the names of “developers” from the website of ICDISS, which released the study concerned.

But it is true that these reprobatory and disgusting proceedings were used after Moscow has hosted a real and allegedly scientific conference (not virtual like the one invoked to have taken place in Washington), which debated and approved the presence of Transnistrian scientists in conclusions of the ICDISS counter-study. Of course, everything was organised to help the Transnistrian propaganda “justify” the legality of the referendum, fuelling the expectations of citizens from the left bank of the Dniester river to get rid of uncertainties related to the undecided status of the region.

It is also interesting to compare the behaviour of ABCNY and ICDISS experts. The first have visited Chisinau and Tiraspol to collect facts before producing the study and they presented the study for debates at a conference in the origin country of the studied conflict. The ICDISS experts did not do the same, but made conclusions in favour of the separatist regime. Unfortunately, ICDISS did not organise debates in Chisinau or at least in Tiraspol, so that to answer some old questions on Transnistria’s right to self-determination:

  1. If ICDISS invoked historic arguments for the alleged comeback of Transnistria to the statehood of the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (MASSR), what was the name of the people who self-determined in RASSM from Ukraine?
  2. If they condescend to admit that the Moldovan people had self-determined in MASSR from Ukraine, as observed from the name, then how and when the “Transistrian people” has appeared? Should the findings of last census held in USSR in 1989, when citizens from the left bank of the Dniester river identified themselves as Moldovans — 40%, Ukrainians — 30% and Russians — 25% , be taken into account for this purpose?
  3. How the genesis of the “Transnistrian people” which has immediately gained the right to self-determination could take place in the USSR in one year only, from 1989 to 1990?
  4. How the “Transnistrian people”, aware of itself and own rights to self-determination, had set up “own” power through some mercenaries who arrived from elsewhere while its top leadership was and it is made up in corpore of these “variague” parvenus?
  5. The genesis of the “Transnistrian people” with the right to self-determination is produced through a simple manipulation similar to the one from the ICDISS study, in which “Moldavskaya Pridnestrovskaya Respublica” is replaced with “Pridnestrovye” in order to clean the Moldovan traces of “Moldovan people”, while “true Moldovans” such as Alexandr Karaman and Grigore Maracuta have disappeared from Transnistria’s leadership in a move to justify the manipulation of the passage from the Moldovan nature of self-determination to the Transnistrian one by ICDISS, isn’t it?
  6. If ICDISS insists on “internationalist” nature of Transnistrian people, how would it explain the fact that the “Transnistrian internationalism” was supported from very beginning and its is supported in continuation by most inveterate chauvinists from Russia such as Zhirinovsky, Baburin, Zatulin, whom Ukraine has recently declared as persona non grata for inciting to separatism in this country, but Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded state orders to all of them for friendship last year. How to explain this affection between devoted Russian chauvinists and “Transnistrian internationalists”?
  7. Why the genesis of the “Transnistrian people” with the right to self-determination took place only between the Dniester river and the administrative border of Moldova and Ukraine, why it did not take place in the entire territory of the former MASSR, half of which had remained part of Ukraine?
  8. How the self-aware “Transnistrian people” to self-determine in one of main cities of Moldova from the left bank of the Dniester river — Bender (Tighina) — which had never been part of MASSR or other provinces in the Russian empire, except for Bessarabia? Why the genesis of the “Transnistrian people” did not take place in seven villages from the left bank of the Dniester river which remained under jurisdiction of Moldova, etc.?
  9. Why ICDISS experts did not study the conclusions of one of most important sources — the ECHR decision on “Ilascu case” before drawing conclusions?

If they read the ECHR judgment, which is an official document with a higher status than of others, they would discover that the separatist regime was initially inspired and supported by revanchist forces from the dying USSR, after the Russian Federation declared its sovereignty on June 12, 1990. The separatist regime is identified with the “last bastion of the USSR”. The seven villages had been protected against the process of genesis of “Transnistrian people” from the simple reason that residents have managed to reject warrior Cossacks and mercenaries who arrived from Russia and are supported by Army 14. After the collapse of USSR, the separatist regime claimed to be an outpost of Russia in Balkans, and we ascertain after the fall of the Milosevic regime in Serbia and the loss of Russian influence in Balkans that the separatist Transnistrian regime and its supporters do not need independence any longer, planning indeed a referendum that annuls the “independence” in favour of joining Russia. Russian citizens who usurped the power in the eastern districts of Moldova were expected to act this way.

Indeed, the questions raised to ICDISS should be raised to the advisor of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, Modest Kolerov, the way the writer of the article published in Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor[3] has supposed, as the Russian official has organised the study attributed to ICDISS in all likelihood, the way he organised last year the creation of branches of the so-called International Corporation “Proriv” in “republics of the separatist international” and Crimea, and the series of international conferences aimed to propagate the “Kosovo precedent” on separatist republics in the former Soviet Union. The recent example of separation of Montenegro from Serbia is being invoked now.

Using falsehood to justify the right of Transnistria to secession disqualifies any claims in this respect for sure. Also, it is absolutely wrong to invoke the examples of Kosovo and Montenegro. Kosovo is under administration of the U.N. with Serbia’s consent, under the resolution of the Security Council, while Article 60 of the Constitution of Serbia and Montenegro from February 4, 2003 stipulates express the right of Montenegro to conduct a referendum on separation from Serbia three years after the Constitution was adopted.

Propaganda and intimidations instead of free debates on questions for voting

If Transnistria had political freedoms, the problems raised at the referendum should be freely debated under all aspects. Citizens with pro and against visions regarding the questions for the referendum should enjoy a free access to mass media in order to publish their opinions and to invite their fellows to support their options. This fact is absent in Transnistria. As for example, it would be absolutely normal that the population from Transnistria debate the questions formulated above for ICDISS. On the contrary, the entire mass media from the region is controlled by the separatist administration and it is engaged in propaganda aimed to produce the expected result — the vote for joining to Russia. Four members of the DIGNITAS organisation based on the left bank of the Dniester river have been arrested, intimidated and humiliated for “prophylaxis” reasons, in order to prevent eventual intentions of debating referendum-related problems. This should be an example for others.

At the same time, the separatist authorities who complain of negative effects of the “economic blockade introduced by Moldova and Ukraine” did not hesitate to fill the secessionist region with huge TV screens in order to promote one convenient option for them. Indeed, the source of financing for these expensive installations is known. Of course, it’s the same for the “international monitoring” if the referendum, which will be mainly conducted by lawmakers and nationalist forces from Russia, marginal forces from Ukraine and doubtful nongovernmental organisations such as CIS-EMO, etc. As for example, the International Council of Russian Compatriots, whose sympathies are clear for everybody, or CIS-EMO has appropriated the second half of its name (EMO — Election Observation Mission) after the model of EMO network created under the auspices of the OSCE. But CIS-EMO has nothing in common with the OSCE, but on the contrary, it contests the election observation missions of this institution in the CIS. But CIS-EMO does not observe the illegalities committed in the Russian Federation — the permanent mockery at former vice president of Russia Alexander Rutskoy, the fact that the Communist Party of Russia and Yabloko have contested the mode of organisation of elections in Russia at the ECHR, etc. Is the monitory of elections in Transnistria by organisations such as CIS-EMO enough “to confirm the fairness of elections?”

But the separatist propaganda avoids telling citizens from the left bank of the Dniester river what will be their fate further. Thus, it is easy to guess the result of the so-called referendum under conditions of falsifications, intimidations and propaganda:

  1. It may be presumed that the “independence” of Transnistria will be annulled in favour of joining to Russia;
  2. Russia will insist on the need of taking into account the results of the referendum, but it will probably refrain from trenchantly declaring the intention of incorporating Transnistria into itself, continuing to support ostentatiously the separatist regime in all fields, the way it has always done, especially in the first half of this year, maintaining actually the status quo. Russia needs only levers of pressure on Moldova, but not additional problems when its own North Caucasus is a permanent hot zone;
  3. The “special relationship” between Transnistria and Russia will develop “over the head of Ukraine” after the referendum as well. The Ukrainian authorities have already said that they will not recognise the results of the referendum. Of course, Ukraine is not interested to recognise the results of the referendum. Of course, it is not interested to recognise the legality of a regime on “Russian land” at south-west of its regions. Ukraine realises that there will be tries to eliminate on its account the discontinuity between territory of Russia and the “Russian land” in Transnistria for sure. By declaring the chauvinistic lawmakers in Russia, supporters of independence of Transnistria and Crimea as persona non grata and expelling the leader of the Proriv Corporation created by Modest Kolerov, the Ukrainian authorities demonstrate that they realise the danger of separatism very clearly.

Thus, what could be the consequences of the referendum for common citizens from the region, whose number has declined by ? after declaration of Transnistria’s independence — remaining in continuation in a zone of uncertainty, where political adventurers resolve their problems while their supporter practices a kind of political poaching in “close neighbourhood” considered an “exclusive zone of influence”? Of course, the public discussion of this kind of perspectives for population is not convenient to separatist authorities.

Does danger of terrorism strengthen relationship between leadership and citizens?

Two explosions with tragic consequences took place right in the period when the referendum is being prepared. The explosions that killed ten persons and hurt other dozens had a very important impact. The Transnistrian authorities have organised a political show after the July 6, 2006 explosion in a minibus. The problem of referendum was decided in the mourning days, and the weak resistance of those who opposed the ambiguous formulation of questions about Transnistria’s eventual entry in Russia was defeated. Adherents of separatist leader Igor Smirnov have hinted to journalists that persons from entourage of the main political adversary of Smirnov could be involved in organisation of the explosion. This is the chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Transnistria, Evghenii Sevciuc, who holds deep relations with the known firm Serif, whose owners are interested in discouraging the potential participants in the announced privatisation of the winery KVINT. It is curious that after launching these allusions the adherents of Sevciuc in the Supreme Soviet have ceded regarding the formulation of questions for referendum, while Serif has managed to privatise KVINT.

The ensuring of the economic interests of the Serif group made Sevciuc break the ice the first after the second explosion in a trolley in Tiraspol on August 13, 2006 and say that the explosions have been planned from outside, alluding to Moldova, of course. Sevciuc’s statement regarding the need of debating security problems in the Security Soviet raised a nervous reaction of Transnistrian security chief Vladimir Antiufeev. On the other hand, the explosions were used to “strengthen the relations” between leadership and citizens, while on the other hand both the organisers of terrorist acts and those who should prevent the “eruption of terror” should be identified. Security head Antiufeev should be found guilty in the second category. He tried to banter the intention of Sevciuc to organise debates, saying that it could aim at enhancing the financing for the security ministry (MGB) headed by Antiufeev. The nervousness of Antiufeev was observed especially when he accused Moldovan Interior Minister Gheorghe Papuc at a news conference of having organised the explosions, swearing terribly, and he had to admit after two hours only that there is no evidence regarding the involvement of Moldovan intelligence services in the two explosions.

As it was already said, the Transnistrian propaganda did not hesitate to throw the responsibility for explosion on Moldova’s shoulders. However, this was done in a very special manner. Low and medium-ranking functionaries have invoked Moldova’s involvement from the very beginning, while those of higher ranking spoke equivocally in order to affirm later that they did not discover any traces of participation of Moldovan intelligence services. The first category included the former chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Transnistria, Grigore Maracuta, who was excellent in developing an entire conspiring theory. The meaning of these actions was that the propaganda from Russian and Transnistria widely mediate this kind of opinions, targeting at creating a negative and suspicious public opinion against Moldova. Functionaries with insignificant public offices, whom Maracuta has recently joined, were not expected to manifest responsibility and it does not make any sense to demand explanations. Instead, the separatist leaders have been very careful, speaking about acts of terrorism very vaguely. Is it clear why? If Antiufeev or Smirnov insisted on Moldova’s involvement in the terrorist acts, the Moldovan authorities, the OSCE Mission, other international institutions would demand explanations and evidence, and this fact would be inconvenient to the separatist regime.

Thus, what have investigations established? Firstly, the explosions should be organised by passengers of the vehicles concerned; that means by potential self-murderers. This fact was confirmed by official media from the secessionist region. Thus, it was announced after the first explosion that investigators have identified two potential transporters of the explosive on July 6 — Nicolai Fastovet and Alexand Beleaev. Even more, the Transnistrian authorities said that devices like the one that exploded in the minibus have been discovered at home of one of the two suspects. Following the silence and irritation over insistences on make public the final findings of the inquiry, MGB head Antiufeev hinted that people without “civic consciousness”, fishers who use explosive to poach on the Dniester river, are to blame for the blasts.

Confusions related to explanations have appeared after the August 13 explosion, too. On the other hand, speaker Sevciuc spoke about involvement of some foreign forces and ordered explosions. But investigators of this case said that grenades have exploded in the trolley and a man who held grenades and intended to detonate them on the Dniester river, probably for poaching purposes, too, has been held. However, investigators noted that they have found two detonators for grenades outside of the trolley. The detonators could be found outside of the vehicle only if it was at the level of windows to be thrown by shock wave. It means that the potential criminals should splash with grenades inside the vehicle and this fact could be easily established. Even more, it is known that the grenades RGD-5, which have been detonated inside of the trolley, throw pieces at 25 metres and cover a surface of 3,000 square metres. Curiously, the separatist authorities did not speak about traces of the grenade explosion, in order to confirm that such ammunition has exploded.

After all, the Transnistrian authorities have awarded FSB officers of Russia invited to investigate the two explosions for helping discover the cause of the first explosion and they said that the criminal who organised the second blast has been held. They said nothing more. However, the main problem in the two cases remains unsolved — what is the origin of the explosive, how does it arrive in hands of criminals or poaching fishers? Of course, it was said that the ammunition has origins in the armed hostilities from the early 1990s of last century.

But the participation of Russian FSB officers in investigating the two explosions, their awarding and the refusal to make public the findings of investigations may mean an internal service investigation. Thus, it may be supposed that FSB officers have established that the arsenal of Army 14 deployed illegally to Moldova’s eastern districts was the source of explosives. Of course, the eventual release of such data is not convenient to the separatist authorities and the Russian leadership, especially when the Moldovan authorities demand insistently the withdrawal of Russian troops and ammunition from the breakaway region, being supported by the international community. This supposition is not improbable. Russian media and film-makers have collected and made public enough materials demonstrating that Russian military sell weapons to their enemies even under the hostile conditions in Chechnya, then why it would be unlikely to do such things in relations with poachers or criminals involved in settling accounts in Transnistria?

This seems to be a version to elucidate the enigma since the Transnistrian authorities speak about terrorist acts, make allusions about Moldova’s involvement, and refuse to make public the findings of investigations, etc. Citizens from the region should have the possibility to speak freely about effect of stationing of Russian troops and military arsenals on the left bank of the Dniester river before the referendum but they are not allowed to do this.

Reactions of Moldovan authorities to recent events in Transnitia

On August 3, the Moldovan Government adopted an action plan aimed at “using the conclusions of the ABCNY Report in the country’s reintegration process.” As regards the two explosions in public transportation in Tiraspol, the Moldovan authorities acted absolutely rightly when they proposed their assistance in investigating the two cases and treating the victims. This is normal:

  1. Tragedies took place in Moldova, though this happened in a territory uncontrolled by constitutional authorities;
  2. More than 3/4 of Transnistria’s residents hold the citizenship of Moldova and thus it may be certainly said that the majority of those who suffered are Moldovan citizens that the Moldovan state must protect.

Under these circumstances, the Moldovan authorities must insist to be admitted in investigating the incidents with losses of human lives. The fact that the Russian FSB participates in investigations and does not make public their results indicates the hiding of very important information such as regarding the origin of explosive substances. Moldova must also demand this information from reasons related to the recent participation of the chief of state in the recent informal CIS summit in Moscow. The modernisation of the CIS was sought at the summit, with Russia insisting that the anti-terrorism fight is a priority of the CIS. In this context, the Moldovan authorities should insist on disclosure of information about terror in Transnistria and origin of the explosive that killed people. The OSCE Mission should also insist on access to this information.


If Transnistria had a democratic regime, the September 17-scheduled referendum would take place both on background of the two regrettable and tragic explosions that killed people and of “explosive” public debates aimed:

  1. To clarify the perjury of Smirnov, who has initiated a referendum on abolition of the “independence” of Transnistria, which he was earlier justifying through fact that “human lives had been sacrificed in the armed conflict for independence”;
  2. To express indignation with using the names of notable scientists without their consent in order to produce false and to justify the “right to secession” with “ill-will”, and this fact will have reverse effects for sure when discovered;
  3. To prevent the perpetuation of the undecided status of the region and its use in political games aimed at affirming the rise of influence of the Russian Federation on account of sufferings of citizens who face propaganda;
  4. To express indignation with false accusations of ordered terrorist acts and hiding sources of origin of explosives, lack of measures to eliminate these sources that may serve for other terrorist acts at any moment, etc.

If the lack of all these things does not raise awareness, speaking about legality of the referendum and its eventual results is nonsense.

That’s what the Moldovan authorities must affirm and demonstrate, these ideas could promote the foreign policy of our country, us, citizens of this country, and all its true friends must think this way.

  1. Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor — Volume 3, issue 139 of July 19, 2006, Desinformatsya alive but transparent, by Vladimir Socor
  2. “Disinformation”, The Economist print edition, Aug 3rd 2006
  3. Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor — Volume 3, issue 139 of July 19, 2006, Desinformatsya alive but transparent, by Vladimir Socor
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