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U.S. Black Hawk helicopter forced to land in Bucharest

U.S. Black Hawk helicopter forced to land in Bucharest

A U.S. Black Hawk military helicopter training in Romania was forced to undertake an emergency landing in central BucharestBy STEPHEN McGRATH Associated PressJuly 15, 2021, 3:17 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBUCHAREST — A U.S. Black Hawk military helicopter training in Romania was forced to undertake an emergency landing Thursday in central Bucharest, bringing down two lampposts in the process. No one was injured.The helicopter, which landed near the Arc De Triumph in Romania’s capital, was one of several aircraft training Thursday in preparation for a military parade set to take place next week to mark the end of the Romanian Army’s military missions in Afghanistan.The helicopter reportedly lost altitude over the capital and traffic police cleared an area of vehicles and pedestrians at Charles de Gaulle Square in time for the landing. It’s not yet clear what caused the incident, which is being investigated.“We regret the incident that happened Thursday … with a helicopter of the U.S. Armed Forces that was forced to land in Charles de Gaulle Square in Bucharest,” Romania’s ministry of defense said in a statement.“The pilot managed to control the aircraft so that there are no victims, and the material damage is reduced.”The U.S. embassy in Romania said that it was “closely following the developments.”“We are working with our Romanian partners to resolve the situation and we will provide updated information as it becomes available,” an embassy press release said.Romania — which became a member of NATO in 2004 — has participated in Afghanistan military missions for 19 years with more than 32,000 troops. It repatriated its last 140 troops from the country at the end of May.

First batch of U.S. coronavirus vaccine arrives in Moldova

First batch of U.S. coronavirus vaccine arrives in Moldova

The first 150,000 doses of a 500,000-dose batch of Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine has arrived in Moldova’s capital as part of a donation from the United States that will help the former Soviet republic tackle the pandemicBy STEPHEN McGRATH Associated PressJuly 12, 2021, 9:12 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBUCHAREST — The first 150,000 doses of a planned 500,000-dose batch of Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine arrived in Moldova’s capital Monday as part of a donation from the United States that will help the former Soviet republic tackle the pandemic.The U.S.-made J&J vaccine, which requires only one dose for full protection, is part of the U.N.-backed COVAX program that is shipping coronavirus vaccines to poor countries to help combat the global pandemic.After the vaccine arrived in Chisinau, President Maia Sandu wrote online: “I urge you to get vaccinated. The danger of getting sick hasn’t passed yet, and life and health are priceless.”Sandu thanked the U.S. for the donation and said the vaccine will “help save lives” and “reduce the force of the pandemic.”Moldova, which is Europe’s poorest nation landlocked between Ukraine and Romania, has so far administered more than 800,000 vaccine doses. But only 313,000 people have received the necessary doses to be fully inoculated against the coronavirus — about 11% of the country’s 3.5 million people.The first J&J batch arrived a day after a snap parliamentary elections in Moldova that saw the pro-reform Party of Action and Solidarity decisively win with nearly 53% of the votes, against 27% for its rival bloc of Communists and Socialists.The pro-Western president said Moldovans “must mobilize” and “in solidarity, get vaccinated.”The U.S. Embassy in Moldova has said that it has so far donated more than $4 million (€3.3 million) of pandemic-related assistance to the small nation. Neighboring Romania has also donated COVID-19 aid to the country.Since the pandemic began, Moldova has reported more than 257,000 coronavirus infections and more than 6,200 deaths from COVID-19.

Moldovans cast ballots in election between East and West

Moldovans cast ballots in election between East and West

Voters in Moldova are casting ballots in an early parliamentary election that offers a sharp choice between pro-Russian and Western influencesBy STEPHEN McGRATH Associated PressJuly 11, 2021, 2:21 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBUCHAREST — Voters in Moldova cast ballots Sunday in an early parliamentary election that featured sharp choices between pro-Western and pro-Russian factions.The vote was called by President Maia Sandu, who aims to gain a parliament made up of pro-Western reformists who have pledged to tackle corruption in the former Soviet republic and forge closer ties with the European Union. Moldova ranked 115th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index.The vote Sunday could see the nation of 3.5 million — Europe’s poorest country, landlocked between Ukraine and Romania — follow a pro-Western path or form closer ties with Russia.More than 3 million registered voters will choose between more than 20 parties, but the main battle will be between the pro-reform Party of Action and Solidarity, or PAS, and a pro-Russia bloc made up of Socialists and Communists. Only four of the 20 parties are expected to gain enough support to enter the country’s 101-seat legislature.“The situation in our country can be changed,” Sandu wrote online. “The Republic of Moldova has a chance to take care of its citizens.”The early election was called in April by Sandu, a former World Bank official who used to lead the PAS party, after the country’s Constitutional Court abolished a state of emergency that was introduced to handle the coronavirus pandemic.Sandu has promised to clean up corruption, fight poverty and strengthen relations with the EU. Moldova signed a deal in 2014 with the EU on forging closer ties, but high levels of corruption and lack of reform have stunted development.“Today you choose your future: Go vote!” Sandu said Sunday.Recent opinion polls have given a lead to the reformists, but the result could largely depend on turnout among Moldova’s large diaspora — which expressed clear support in electing Sandu as president last year.Moldova’s Central Electoral Commission, or CEC, says more than 726,000 ballots were distributed to polling stations outside the country and 2,400 observers were monitoring the election. By 4p.m. Sunday, over 1 million people — more than a third of registered voters — had voted, including about 140,000 abroad.In last year’s presidential election, Sandu beat Moscow-friendly incumbent Igor Dodon, the current leader of the Socialists, who campaigned on high social spending, traditional family values and a distrust of closer ties with the West.“Today Moldovans have a very important political choice to make,” Dodon wrote online Sunday. “After these elections, it will be decided whether Moldova will be sovereign or completely subordinated to foreign interests.”Dodon said Sunday’s vote could decide “whether there will be peace and order in the country or permanent conflict and chaos.”Vadim Pistrinciuc, executive director at Chisinau-based Institute for Strategic Initiatives, and a former lawmaker, told The Associated Press that if PAS wins a clear majority, Moldova “immediately (gains) a much better relationship with the EU.”“Even that we got to today, this snap election, is a great victory,” he said, adding that current turnout figures suggest the result could be “very close.”He also said since last year’s presidential election “disinformation (and) propaganda” have increased in Moldova.

Moldovans cast ballots in election between East and West

Moldovans cast ballots in election between East and West

Voters in Moldova are casting ballots in an early parliamentary election that offers a sharp choice between pro-Russian and Western influencesBy STEPHEN McGRATH Associated PressJuly 11, 2021, 2:21 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBUCHAREST — Voters in Moldova cast ballots Sunday in an early parliamentary election that featured sharp choices between pro-Western and pro-Russian factions.The vote was called by President Maia Sandu, who aims to gain a parliament made up of pro-Western reformists who have pledged to tackle corruption in the former Soviet republic and forge closer ties with the European Union. Moldova ranked 115th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index.The vote Sunday could see the nation of 3.5 million — Europe’s poorest country, landlocked between Ukraine and Romania — follow a pro-Western path or form closer ties with Russia.More than 3 million registered voters will choose between more than 20 parties, but the main battle will be between the pro-reform Party of Action and Solidarity, or PAS, and a pro-Russia bloc made up of Socialists and Communists. Only four of the 20 parties are expected to gain enough support to enter the country’s 101-seat legislature.“The situation in our country can be changed,” Sandu wrote online. “The Republic of Moldova has a chance to take care of its citizens.”The early election was called in April by Sandu, a former World Bank official who used to lead the PAS party, after the country’s Constitutional Court abolished a state of emergency that was introduced to handle the coronavirus pandemic.Sandu has promised to clean up corruption, fight poverty and strengthen relations with the EU. Moldova signed a deal in 2014 with the EU on forging closer ties, but high levels of corruption and lack of reform have stunted development.“Today you choose your future: Go vote!” Sandu said Sunday.Recent opinion polls have given a lead to the reformists, but the result could largely depend on turnout among Moldova’s large diaspora — which expressed clear support in electing Sandu as president last year.Moldova’s Central Electoral Commission, or CEC, says more than 726,000 ballots were distributed to polling stations outside the country and 2,400 observers were monitoring the election. By 4p.m. Sunday, over 1 million people — more than a third of registered voters — had voted, including about 140,000 abroad.In last year’s presidential election, Sandu beat Moscow-friendly incumbent Igor Dodon, the current leader of the Socialists, who campaigned on high social spending, traditional family values and a distrust of closer ties with the West.“Today Moldovans have a very important political choice to make,” Dodon wrote online Sunday. “After these elections, it will be decided whether Moldova will be sovereign or completely subordinated to foreign interests.”Dodon said Sunday’s vote could decide “whether there will be peace and order in the country or permanent conflict and chaos.”Vadim Pistrinciuc, executive director at Chisinau-based Institute for Strategic Initiatives, and a former lawmaker, told The Associated Press that if PAS wins a clear majority, Moldova “immediately (gains) a much better relationship with the EU.”“Even that we got to today, this snap election, is a great victory,” he said, adding that current turnout figures suggest the result could be “very close.”He also said since last year’s presidential election “disinformation (and) propaganda” have increased in Moldova.

U.S. donates 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Moldova

U.S. donates 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Moldova

Moldova is set to receive half a million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines from the United States to help the small nation combat the coronavirus pandemicBy STEPHEN McGRATH Associated PressJuly 10, 2021, 2:24 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBUCHAREST — Moldova is set to receive half a million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the United States to help the small nation combat the coronavirus pandemic.The first 150,000 doses of J&J are to arrive in Moldova — a country of 3.5 million, Europe’s poorest sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine — on July 12, the U.S. Embassy officials in Moldova said..Moldovan President Maia Sandu thanked the U.S. for the vaccines and said that they will “help save lives, preserve the health of our citizens and reduce the force of the pandemic.”“Now, we must mobilize ourselves and, in solidarity, get vaccinated,” Sandu, a former World Bank official, wrote online.The announcement came days ahead of an early) parliamentary election in Moldova that pits pro-Western reformists against a Russia-friendly bloc of Socialists and Communists, with recent polls giving a lead to the former.“This donation could not come at a more important time,” the U.S. Embassy in Moldova said in a statement. “The U.S. remains Moldova’s steadfast partner in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and saving Moldovan lives.”Only 305,000 people in Moldova have been fully inoculated against COVID-19, around just 11% of the population.The embassy said the U.S. has so far donated more than $4 million (€3.3 million) of COVID-19 related assistance to Moldova, including equipment and staff training. Neighboring Romania has also donated more than 400,000 AstraZeneca vaccines to Moldova.Moldova has reported more than 257,000 coronavirus infections and 6,207 deaths.———Follow all AP stories on the global pandemic at h ttps://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

Moldova to hold vote pitting reformists against pro-Russians

Moldova to hold vote pitting reformists against pro-Russians

BUCHAREST — Moldovan voters go to the polls this weekend in a snap parliamentary election that could decide whether the former Soviet republic fully embraces pro-Western reforms or prolongs a political impasse under strong Russian influence.The landlocked country of 3.5 million — Europe’s poorest, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine — has in recent years lurched from one political crisis to another, dogged by instability and stuck in geopolitical limbo between pro-Western and pro-Russia forces.Although Moldova signed a deal with the European Union in 2014 on forging closer political and economic ties, rampant corruption and lack of reform have hindered development and at times drawn strong criticism from Brussels.Analysts say Sunday’s election could prove decisive for the future of the country, which gained independence in 1992 but has seen widespread disillusionment with post-Soviet politics, and an exodus of hundreds of thousands of citizens seeking a better future abroad.“These elections are crucial for Moldova’s future development,” Iulian Groza, executive director of the Chisinau-based Institute for European Policies and Reforms think tank, told The Associated Press. “It is basically a struggle between the incumbent kleptocrats, and new pro-reform elites willing and ready to clean the system from corrupt practices.”Over three million registered voters will choose Sunday among more than 20 parties, but only four are expected to make it to the 101-seat legislature. The main battle will be between the pro-Reform Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) and a Moscow-friendly bloc made up of the Communists and Socialists, headed by two former presidents.Current Moldovan President Maia Sandu, who used to lead the pro-reform bloc, told voters that “this is our chance to cleanse the political class.” She forced the election in April by dissolving parliament shortly after Moldova’s highest court abolished a state of emergency imposed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.“You decide who will be part of the next parliament and government,” the 49-year-old former World Bank official said in an online post. “It is up to you how quickly we can save the country from corruption and poverty.”Moldova’s last parliamentary elections in 2019 led to a series of awkward coalitions and occasional deadlock in parliament. Sandu forced the snap polls by twice nominating prime ministerial candidates that were unlikely to be approved by parliament, which then had to be dissolved according to the Constitution.She now aims to build on her presidential victory last November by securing a clear pro-reform government that she can work with.Sandu beat Igor Dodon, a former president with close links to Russia, in a presidential runoff last year. Dodon warned of instability if reformists take power in a country still mistrustful of changes aligned with Western values.“Only our team is able to end the chaos in the country, ensure social protection of people, restore the economy, strengthen statehood,” Dodon, whose party campaigns on high social spending and traditional family values, said earlier this week.Recent opinion polls have given a lead to the pro-Sandu PAS party, but the result could largely depend on turnout among Moldova’s more than 200,000 diaspora voters. Radu Magdin, an analyst at Smartlink Communications, said a strong turnout likely would mean strong support for the reformists.“The main question, which could turn everything around, is mobilization,” he said.Svetlana Eremka, a 40-year-old design manager who lives in Essex, U.K., hopes this election brings a “new beginning.”“Our nation has been struggling for the last 30 years or so, with little success … it is a lot of work and requires each of us to participate and help to build a new system,” she said, adding that she hopes many Moldovan students living abroad can move back and “believe there is bright future … not just for a few elites but the vast majority of the population.”The EU has earmarked a 600-million-euro ($710 million) recovery package for Moldova to help the economy recover from the pandemic and boost investment. But Brussels has warned the money is conditioned on judicial and anti-corruption reform.In Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index, Moldova ranked 115th out of 180 countries, with the first place being the least corrupt.Sabin Rufa, a 20-year-old student at Warwick University in the U.K., believes this election comes at a “crucial moment” in his country’s democratic history.“I feel this election is perhaps the most important milestone in the last 10 years, especially for the progressive people that wish Moldova to develop in line with democratic standards and institutions,” he said. “I hope that in another 10 years, I will look back to this election knowing that it was a turning point.”“With all its imperfections, Moldova is where I want to build a future for myself, for my family, and for my compatriots.”

Romania's monument 'ambulance' races to save country's past

Romania's monument 'ambulance' races to save country's past

MICASASA, Romania — On a scorching summer day in the remote Transylvanian village of Micasasa, 39-year-old Romanian architect Eugen Vaida is busy coordinating a team of volunteers helping to breathe new life into a centuries-old castle on the brink of ruin.“It’s in an advanced state of degradation and it’s a monument of national importance,” Vaida, who in 2016 launched the Ambulance for Monuments project, told The Associated Press.The Ambulance for Monuments has a simple task: to race around the Balkan country, giving critical care to as many historical buildings as possible that are in an advanced state of decay before it’s too late.Since it launched, Ambulance for Monuments has rescued 55 historical structures, including medieval churches, historic fortification walls, old watermills and ancient UNESCO World Heritage Sites, from descending into complete ruin.Situated in a broad valley at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountain basin, the dilapidated 16th-century Brukenthal Castle, which was once home to influential aristocrats and used as a primary school until just after the turn of the century, is one such endangered building being revived by the project.More than two decades of neglect have left the old castle in serious need of attention.“It probably would have gotten to a stage where it could barely be saved, it would have gotten to a ruin, and a ruin you cannot build again,” Vaida said. “Heritage is not renewable.”The castle’s interior boasts around 600 square meters (6,460 square feet), but its roof is leaking, its timbers rotting and part of a key structural wall that supports it is compromised by decades of neglect. A month-long revamp, like all of Vaida’s projects, is supported by dozens of volunteers who are playing an important role in preserving Romania’s past.“Young people are starting to get more aware about their cultural identity,” said Vaida, who became fascinated with heritage objects as a child. “It’s our cultural identity this heritage, which is important for our spiritual development.”One person directly involved in the efforts to save the endangered building from ruin is Micasasa’s mayor, 30-year-old Timotei Pacurar. For him, saving the village’s most significant and perhaps most neglected historic building holds a poignant significance.“When I started school, I was here in this room, in the first class — we have a lot of good memories here,” Pacurar told the AP. “I was disappointed to see that the building almost collapsed.”Pacurar stands in his crumbling childhood classroom, which he shared with his best friend and Micasasa’s deputy mayor, Adrian Suciu. When the pair won the local election, saving the historic building was high up on their list. Both have been helping out with manual labor on the project.“Unfortunately, this place was ruined in only 20 years,” Suciu said. “I’m very happy that this event with the Ambulance for Monuments is happening, because as you can see it has been raining all over the place.”The castle is one of several hundred monuments in Romania in a state of advanced degradation. Over the years, poor state management, weak legislation and a lack of funding have all taken a toll on Romania’s impressive heritage, Vaida says.“In the last 30 years, it’s not just that communities have abandoned buildings, but also the support of the state was very, very low,” Vaida said.Civic initiatives like the Ambulance for Monuments are stepping in to help preserve what they can. The project’s aim is not to fully restore buildings — since that would require expertise that isn’t available — but to rescue as many “immovable monuments” as possible from being lost to history.“We have churches that are on the tentative list of UNESCO from the 14th century that have marvelous paintings on which it’s actually raining,” said Vaida, who was repairing the castle’s roof.The local town hall supplied materials for the Misacasa intervention, while local residents — as with almost all interventions — provided housing and food for the volunteers, who often include students in fields such as architecture, archeology, structural engineering and history.Erika Nagy, a 24-year-old architecture student in her final year in the U.K., has volunteered in Micasasa for more than two weeks.“I first heard about Ambulance for Monuments from my very close friend,” Nagy said. “Old buildings and old architecture is a part of us — and I think we should keep them around.”Among group’s prominent supporters is Prince Charles, who has longstanding ties to Romania where his Prince of Wales Foundation owns old properties and promotes heritage and nature preservation.“The Prince of Wales believed in this project from the beginning,” Vaida said. “He visited two years ago and he spoke with everyone — trying to find out their life stories and why they are coming to save their own heritage.”As the evening draws in on a Saturday, the volunteers are busy measuring, sawing and hammering away at the castle’s roof timbers. The overhaul is a labor-intensive task, but it will help keep the storied, centuries-old castle from becoming irreparable.“The future is in our hands, and we can change things,” Pacurar said. “We can make this building look good again — like a treasure for our community.”Over the past couple of years, Vaida, who spends most of his time driving between interventions, has used a franchise system to expand the project, which now covers around 60% of Romania. He also has ambitions to adopt his ambulance project internationally in countries with similar problems.But for now, rescuing as much of Romania’s architectural heritage is his chief aim.”Over the next five years, (the plan) is to expand over the whole (Romanian) territory,” he said. “Every Romanian should at some point come to put a tile or a nail on a roof to save their own cultural identity.”———“One Good Thing” is a series that highlights individuals whose actions provide glimmers of joy in hard times — stories of people who find a way to make a difference, no matter how small. Read the collection of stories at https://apnews.com/hub/one-good-thing