PRESIDENT SANDU: Dear Ms. Administrator, Ms. Power, dear Samantha. Welcome back to Chisinau. This time, we meet again in a very dramatic context, for Ukraine, as well as for all of us. What is happening now in the cities, in the villages of Ukraine, is simply appalling. The pictures with the atrocities committed on the streets, of those destroyed streets of the Bucha city, left us speechless. Those are crimes against humanity. The Ukrainian authorities and the international organizations report some serious crimes against civilians in Irpin and Borodyanka.
Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes because of the war. Many of them have no shelter. Thousands of innocent people, including children, have been murdered. It is difficult to believe that all these horrors are happening in the 21st century, and they are happening exactly at our border.
Ukraine, our neighbor country, our friend, is living today a tragedy which is difficult to be put in words, a tragedy which regards all of us. This war needs to be stopped. From the very first day of the military aggression, the Republic of Moldova called to this. We have firmly condemned the war of Russia against Ukraine. We got involved in supporting the Crimeans who had to flee their country and seek refuge in our country. The Moldovans showed solidarity with Ukrainians from the very first days of the war. Tens of thousands of people, volunteers, police officers, public servants, medical doctors, mayors, businessmen, simple citizens, they all got mobilized in order to help out the refugees from Ukraine. Today, Moldova is hosting 96,000 refugees from the neighboring country. Half of them are children. Of the 80,000 people are accommodated in the houses of our people. It's a far too large figure for us. Practically, in those six weeks, the population of the country grew up by four percent. We do need help. We are grateful for the recent announcement of the Ambassador Logsdon that the United States are going to support the refugees of the Republic of Moldova in the upcoming months with another $30 million. We also do appreciate the decision of the American government to fund, additionally, the programs of the USA Embassy in order to fight the consequences of the war over the economy of Moldova.
Dear Ms. Power, it is obvious that our country is going to feel the consequences of the war a long time yet. We are already strongly affected by the rising prices of food, fuel, for energy resources. And currently we are also facing the disrupted imports and exports from the eastern markets. We are seeking for some rapid solutions now in order to open up some other markets for the Moldovan products. We do need the support of our partners in order to strengthen our economic resilience as well as the energy independence of the Republic of Moldova.
As I have been mentioning earlier to the Secretary of State, Mr. Antony Blinken, we want to continue our plans in order to change Moldova to the best. Despite all the difficulties, all the crises, we want to succeed to build up a country which is competitive, [inaudible], and resilient, a country which really values its people and does invest in them. In this context, we are grateful for the consistent support of the United States. For this process of democratic transformation of the Republic of Moldova, as well as for the whole support in the economic field, inclusively through the USAID programs, meaning the International Development Agency of the United States. For over 30 years, United States have permanently supported our effort to strengthen the society and the economy and to build up a democratic state. We do appreciate the support of the United States for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, as well as for our European part.
Dear Samantha, strengthening the American partnership will help us out to extend all the current challenges and to develop to the benefit of our citizens. However, through development, we do need this. Now we need to do our best in order to restore the peace in Ukraine. The international community needs to put all efforts in order to cease the Russian military aggression, in order to prevent losing human lives, to prevent war crimes, and new damages. This is our duty. This is the moral duty of all the countries of the free world, of all the people of good faith. In order to offer Ukrainians some hope to the future, we do need to state, peace has priority.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Ms. President. Now we would like to pass the floor to Ms. Samantha Power, Administrator of USAID. Please, the floor.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much, Madam President, for welcoming me. Not the first, and certainly not the last senior official from the Biden Administration that will visit your country in order to ascertain what the situation is, how it is evolving and what more we can do to support you and all of the efforts that you have referred to. Six months ago, I was right here in Chisinau on my first trip to Eastern Europe as Administrator. I came to the Republic of Moldova then because the United States shares with the people of this country an abiding belief in freedom, in fighting corruption, in democracy.
When the Moldovan people brought President Sandu into office with a strong, overwhelming mandate for building a more democratic and prosperous country, it was a demonstration of the Moldovan people's commitment to that shared belief. Six months ago, at a time when democracy was on its back heels and authoritarians were using disinformation, cyber-attacks and corruption to weaken democracies, Moldova was a bright spot in seeking to tackle these challenges. A bright spot against a backdrop of a darkening global picture. A lot has happened in the last six months, and very particularly in the last six weeks. Now, authoritarians aren't just weakening democracies from the outside, they are raining down bombs and steel on innocent people.
Each day Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine brings forth another horrifying show of disregard for human life. The latest scenes from Bucha are haunting. As the president said, bodies of executed civilians strewn down a thoroughfare. A dead man lying face down, his hands tied behind his back. A grandmother weeping as she discovered the remains of her relatives, even their two dogs having been shot. These people were no danger to any military, but the values they believed in: peace, freedom, the right to make an honest living were too threatening for President Putin. Yet despite the fact that the world has changed in profound ways in these last six months, the values and the resilience of the Moldovan people have not.
Indeed, President Sandu, and the people of this country, have demonstrated extraordinary generosity and leadership in opening their doors and their hearts to the people of Ukraine. Already, of course, a staggering number of Ukrainians have arrived or passed through Moldova, nearly 400.000 in total. As the president indicated, one of the highest numbers of refugees per capita in the entire world. Ordinary Moldovans are opening up their homes to the 96,000 people still here. Small businesses are taking in new hires and volunteers are organizing donations for Ukrainians in need, all of them showing the world the big heart of this country.
I met earlier today with a group of human rights lawyers who have stepped up, for example, producing these leaflets informing refugees who come into this country from Ukraine of their rights of whom they should call if they have witnessed war crimes or survived some of the horrific violence targeted against civilians. These are Moldovan lawyers stepping up to be part of the global effort at supporting the Ukrainian campaign to ensure accountability for war crimes.
Earlier this week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced that the United States will provide an additional $50 million to help the government of Moldova and its people cope with the effects of Russia's brutal war. That is in addition to the $30 million we provided for humanitarian efforts here. We know Putin's war has not only devastated Ukraine, but struck at Moldova, too. Profoundly impacting people's lives and their livelihoods, as long-standing trade corridors have been forced shut and exports to Russia have dried up. Today, I am pleased to announce another $50 million to support Moldova's continued economic development, to strengthen its democracy at the grassroots level, and to reduce the country's dependence on Russia's markets and energy. This brings new U.S. assistance to the Republic of Moldova in response to the Ukrainian war to a total of $130 million dollars. This money will support Moldova's agriculture industry, burgeoning tech sector, and textile manufacturing. It will continue Moldova's critical work to counter corruption, including by funding independent media to counter the surge, the flood of disinformation and propaganda, and it will expand the installation of renewable energy power production and help further integrate Moldova's energy infrastructure with Europe.
This year marks 30 years of the diplomatic relationship between our two countries and now with an existential fight between democracy and autocracy at your doorstep, I believe our relationship is stronger than it has ever been. The United States will continue to stand by the people of this great country to meet the immediate needs that stem from this horrific manmade crisis. At the same time, though, we will also remain focused on the long term success of this country. A Republic of Moldova that is even more free, more prosperous, and more integrated with the West than it is today. I thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. Dear colleagues, now we are going to take one question for Ms. Sandu and Ms. Power.
QUESTION: I have a question to Ms. Power. Since the war in Ukraine, the Russian propaganda is omnipresent in the Republic of Moldova even more and more. Although weekly, our Division Council is sanctioning two, three TV outlets for the unilateral coverage of what's happening in Ukraine. You, Ms. Power, as a journalist, what should be the role of media during the war in your opinion? And what did you think about the media which does not meet the standards or breach the standards deliberately? Such media, does it need to be blocked or not in your opinion?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you so much. I'm no longer a journalist. I am the USAID Administrator, but of course, as a longtime journalist and, indeed, as a former war correspondent, I have a lot of thoughts on the role of a free press in a democratic society. And today, in fact, upon arriving here, most recently from Slovakia, but then prior to that from the United States, I actually sat down with a group of Ukrainian independent journalists in order to engage them on this very question. These are independent journalists who we have offered support to over the years, not with regard to influencing content in any way, but rather to ensure that journalists have the training that they need to fact find, to have quality control, to establish market shares so that they can become viable in terms of the interest by Moldovan people in their publications and in their efforts. And these journalists conveyed a couple of things, which you probably know, but I will pass along.
First, their determination to tell the story and to tell the truth. And the development of this sector in this country, of the independent media sector, is a critically important aspect of this country's democratic journey. If you think about where the independent media is today, the standard, the quality of the work that they do, it is something all Moldovans can be proud of. And that is extremely important. They are telling the story as well of what Moldovans are doing to support Ukrainian refugees. Moldovan journalists, of course, are also present in Ukraine, reporting on the war there and bringing that news home as horrific as it is for all the people of this country to see and to read. So this truth telling is critically important.
But along with the other economic effects of this crisis that the president has spoken about, that I have alluded to, and the Moldovan people are living every day, the independent media too have been affected. Advertising revenue is down by something like 50 percent. And this is a big, big challenge, given that there is no time more important for truth telling and fact-based reporting than in a circumstance like this where as you indicated, misinformation is running wild. So I think what we do as USAID and as a U.S. government is we look now for ways to continue to support this vital sector, this critical foundation for a democratic society. At the same time, we also look at ways that we can support the fight against disinformation, and this is a phenomenon that isn't just plaguing Moldova, it is something we see in the United States. We see social media companies that themselves take what they claim is a very laissez faire position on what happens on their platforms, but in fact, it is not laissez faire. In fact, there are algorithms that make more extreme voices and voices that do not tell the truth more likely to come up in one's feed than those that tell the truth and relay the facts.
So we will continue to engage, given that a lot of these companies are based in the United States. We know this is also something the European Union is very concerned about. But again, our main emphasis is on ensuring that the independent media here continue to be able to perform what is a vital public service for the people of Moldova.
QUESTION: Ms. Sandu, you definitely have seen the statements of the headquarters of the military forces of Ukraine, which announced that the Tiraspol Airport is ready to host some Russian airplanes. In the context of this statement, we would like to know whether there are any risks for the security of our country, and indeed, have you registered any movements of the Russian army? Thank you.
PRESIDENT SANDU: Based upon the information which we received from our institutions. So there are works performed on this airport. Those works are performed every Spring. In the past year, there are also works being performed. Indeed, this year, we will watch some works performed at the airport. It's difficult to judge and difficult to state whether those works are different from the ones which have been performed in the previous years. For the moment being, neither our institutions nor our partners which we discuss with in a regular manner, have any information which would confirm that indeed there is [inaudible] plans to use this airport illegally by the Russian planes.
However, obviously, it doesn't mean that there is no risk at all, there are no threats at all. Well, there are no immediate risks. However, we will continue to closely monitor the situation, and we will properly inform the citizens of our country on any changes which we will deem important, and which might present interest for our people.
MODERATOR: Dear Ms. President Maia Sandu, dear Ms. Administrator Samantha Power, dear colleagues, the event is over. We would like to thank you and wish you a beautiful evening.