Weekly overview in pictures: President Zelensky addresses Romanian Parliament | Văcărești Nature Park fire | New president of Liberal Party
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to the Romanian Parliament, the jail sentence for former minister of development and tourism Elena Udrea, and the leadership change at the National Liberal Party (PNL) made local headlines last week. More of the April 4-April 10 week’s highlights in photos below.
One of the highly anticipated events of last week was Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to the Romanian Parliament on April 4. Before his speech, he presented shocking images showing the crimes committed by the Russian troops against the civilian population in Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel and other settlements in the Kyiv region. He said Russia must be stopped, adding that it targets not only Ukraine but the Republic of Moldova as well. Zelenskyy also said he was confident that Romanian companies would participate in Ukraine’s reconstruction programs after the war was over.
In line with other EU countries, Romania decided to expel ten persons working within the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Bucharest on the grounds that their activities and actions contravene the provisions of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. More than 120 Russian diplomats have been expelled from EU countries amid international outrage over crimes in the town of Bucha.
At the same time, Romania decided to add a EUR 10 million grant to the EUR 100 million financial package (loans and grants) for the Republic of Moldova endorsed last week. Alongside Germany and France, Romania co-organized the Moldova Support Conference in Berlin last week, where donors pledged more than EUR 690 million to help the country deal with the influx of refugees from neighboring Ukraine.
Another local event that put the spotlight on Russia was the incident involving a car that rammed into the gate of the Russian Embassy in Bucharest early on April 6. The Romanian Gendarmerie said the driver set himself on fire when gendarmes guarding the Embassy tried to get him out of the car. He did not survive. Local media reports identified the driver as Bogdan Draghici, the head of the TATA association, who had been charged with sexual assault a day before.
Romanian prime minister Nicolae Ciucă became the president of Romania’s Liberal Party (PNL) this past weekend after an expedited congress that saw the first single-candidate internal elections held by a major political party in the country in three decades. He replaces former prime minister Forin Cîțu, who resigned after only six months at the party’s helm. “I am not a senior member of the party, I have no political experience, and I do not pretend to be one - but I will never be a prisoner,” Ciucă said in the speech held at the congress.
The local political scene also saw the former minister of development and tourism, Elena Udrea, one of the most powerful women in Romania during former president Traian Basescu’s mandate, sentenced to jail for six years. It came after Romania’s High Court (ICCJ) rejected the appeal and upheld the 72-month jail sentence for bribery and abuse of office against the former minister. The sentence is final, and Udrea will be sent to jail as soon as she is extradited from Bulgaria, where she was caught on April 7, after the Romanian High Court announced its decision.
A vegetation fire broke out inside Bucharest’s Văcărești Nature Park, affecting an area of about 15,000 sqm. It was one of the several vegetation fires occurring in the country in recent weeks, many related to stubble burning activities. The fines for stubble burning increased last week as part of a Government emergency ordinance that criminalized waste burning and burying. Such acts can be punished with prison time between three and five years, according to the ordinance.
Several associations and organizations protested on April 9 in front of the headquarters of the Interior Affairs Ministry against the intimidation and denigration campaign against journalist Emilia Șercan. The journalist, who previously uncovered plagiarism cases in the academic works of high profile politicians, said last week that evidence she had filed with the Police was leaked to the media in an attempted kompromat operation.
A restored mural, titled “History of the Romanian commerce,” was unveiled last week in the Aula Magna hall of the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest (ASE). The mural was created 88 years ago by artist Cecilia Cutescu-Stork and tells the story of Romanian commerce over time. The unveiling of the restored painting took place on April 6, when the university celebrated its 109th anniversary.
(Opening photo: Văcărești Park fire by George Călin/ Inquam Photos)