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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lucinschi Vows Close Russia Ties, Control Over 'Savage Capitalism'

CHISINAU, Moldova -- Petru Lucinschi, the challenger who won Moldova's presidential election, is a former Kremlin apparatchik who promises better ties with Moscow and a more cautious, socialist approach to Western-style economic reforms.

"I stand for market reforms," he said recently. "But they must be socially oriented." He wants to rein in "savage capitalism," which he blames for casting many of Moldova's 4.3 million people into some of the worst poverty in Europe.

The tall, bespectacled 56-year-old, who has been chairman of the former Soviet republic's parliament for three years, strongly criticized defeated President Mircea Snegur's attempt to turn his back on Moscow in favor of ties with Romania, whose language is spoken by two in three Moldovans.

Boasting of his "good connections" in the Kremlin, Lucinschi wrote in a manifesto: "Russia ... is still a great and strong country and we have to take account of it.

"If we are clever enough, we can both take advantage of ties with it and preserve Moldova's broader independence."

Fears of submersion in a greater Romania prompted the Russian-speaking Transdnestr region to break away in 1990 and fight a war in 1992 that was ended by Russian troops. Lucinschi has vowed to finalize a Moscow-brokered peace deal with the region that should lead to the Russian forces going home.

A historian by training, the new president also wants to preserve good relations with Bucharest and western partners in general, including agencies like the World Bank.

Of Romania he said: "We are brothers, but each of us should look after his own household."

Active from an early age in the communist youth movement, Komsomol, Lucinschi led Moldova's local communists before going on to reach the heights of secretary of the Central Committee of the party in Moscow in the final days of the Soviet Union.

Staying on after the breakup of the communist superpower, he was Moldova's ambassador to Russia from 1992 to 1993 before returning to Chisinau to chair the parliament.