The newly appointed defense minister of Moldova -- the charming but intermittently hapless ex-Soviet Republic stuck between Ukraine and Romania -- is a sturdy-looking ex-prison official named Valeriu Troenco. He seemed, from a slight distance, to be an affable fellow, but he was deeply, dismissively uninterested in answering a question that I asked him after his swearing-in ceremony.
The ceremony was held in the presidential offices. While on a trip to Moldova and Ukraine earlier this month, I was invited to witness this stripped-down affair: a line of middle-aged, sagging bureaucrats standing impassively during a set of blessedly brief remarks; a piped-in version of Moldova's national anthem (in English, more or less, "Gentle Dniester, which in ripples/Carries morning star's flickers," etc., etc.); a brief, awkward, bent-knee kiss of the flag and swearing of an oath to defend the nation.