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NY Rep. Tonko meets with Moldovan officials as war in Ukraine nears nation’s border

NY Rep. Paul Tonko meets with Moldovan officials at his downtown Albany office, May 9, 2022.
Dave Lucas
NY Rep. Paul Tonko meets with Moldovan officials at his downtown Albany office, May 9, 2022.

New York Congressman Paul Tonko welcomed a group of officials from a former Soviet state to his Albany office Monday.

The International Center of the Capital Region this week is hosting members of the Moldova Parliament.

Moldova, a small country bordered by Ukraine to the north and east, has been welcoming Ukrainian refugees while condemning the Russian invasion. The group is visiting schools and government offices under the auspices of ICCR's Open World Exchange Program, which enables emerging leaders from countries in the post-Soviet region to experience United States culture and learn more about the legislative functions necessary to sustain democracy.

ICCR Executive Director Jennifer Zhao says the visit was planned before war broke out between Russia and Ukraine.

"Back in January was when we were contacted by the open world group to work with them on this visit, as well as a visit from Russia actually," Zhao said. "So the Russian group were cancelled because of the crisis over there. But the Moldovans were able to come. All of the delegates are staying with host families. So it's very different, a more immersive feeling, and they're going to be here for a whole week, so they'll have a really great immersive experience here in the Capital Region, and they get to they're going to the Albany Institute of History and Art. They're going to be visiting the Ten Broeck Mansion and they've been to the Tulip Festival already. So not only are they doing some of these professional meetings, but they're also getting the cultural aspect as well."

Lidia Sanduleac says the group has received a warm welcome in the U.S. The Moldovan representative with the American Councils for International Education says, like America, Moldova is also experiencing inflation and record gasoline prices. She says the war has created uncertainty and "challenging times."

"What we are hoping for right now is Odessa to stay strong, because we do know that from the geo-strategical point of view, if Odessa will collapse, there is no way that Moldova will survive because they are saying that this will be a corridor for the Russian army to get to Moldova," said Sanduleac.

Monday after a stop at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, the Moldovans met with Congressman Paul Tonko at his Dove Street office in downtown Albany. Tonko says they talked about many things, including renewable energy and climate change.

"Well, it's great to have our Moldovan visitors today to talk about their government, our government, participating jointly with other global partners to respond to the climate crisis," said Tonko. "And they're a country deeply interested, involved in transformation, pulling away from the dependency on fossil fuels, oftentimes supplied by Russia, but be able to go out and develop a clean energy agenda. And the partnership here that is most meaningful, is intellectual exchange, the know-how, the savviness, the partnerships, the constructs that get us transitioned from what has been the past support for energy supplies, now going to a clean energy economy."

On the Moldovans’ calendar: a stop at Rockefeller College at the University at Albany’s downtown campus, and meetings with Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan as well as New York state Assemblymembers Pat Fahy and John McDonald.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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