18 Feb 2019 16:45

Moldovan diplomats given only 10 minutes to see pilots freed from Afghan captivity in Moscow - Foreign Ministry

CHISINAU. Feb 18 (Interfax) - The Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration has said it is seriously concerned about the conditions under which Moldovan pilots Lionel Buruiana and Mihai Crihan, who were recently freed from captivity in Afghanistan, are currently being held and are receiving treatment in Moscow, the ministry said in a commentary titled "On details of the situation surrounding Moldovan pilots held in Moscow by a non-governmental organization."

"A week after sending official inquiries to Russian authorities regarding the whereabouts and state of health of Moldovan citizens Lionel Buruiana and Mihai Crihan, which remained unanswered, a Moldovan delegation eventually managed independently to determine the place where they are held," the ministry said.

After several hours of negotiations with security guards at the end of last week, Moldovan officials were allowed to talk to the pilots for only ten minutes, on the condition that the topics for discussion were limited and that no telephones or any other electronic devices would be taken into the meeting, it said.

The Moldovan Foreign Ministry described these preconditions as "unfounded and contradictory to international law and common sense." It said it was particularly outraged by that fact that "access to the pilots by another official from a different government institution" had not been previously restricted in any way and that no such restrictions had been imposed on "a number of individuals, including journalists."

"The careful identity checks of the members of the Moldovan delegation including ministry officials and accredited diplomats from the Moldovan embassy to Russia are highly questionable, as the checks were conducted by security guards who said they were performing these duties on behalf of the non-governmental organization," it said.

The Moldovan Foreign Ministry described the approach taken by the non-governmental organization in whose care the Moldovan pilots remain as "absolutely nontransparent and selective."

The delegation vowed to inform the relevant agencies handling the case of the two pilots of "all conclusions" it made during the trip, and the Foreign Ministry said it will do all it can to make sure the pilots come home "as soon as possible and in absolutely safe conditions."

Doctor Eugen Vasiliev, who was a member of this delegation, said "the state of health of both citizens allows for their immediate transportation to the Republic of Moldova."

In the meantime, some Moldovan Internet publications posted a ten-minute video of the meeting between the Moldovan officials and pilots. In this video, the pilots said they had some health problems and would like to complete the treatment and rehabilitation course they are receiving in Moscow. Pilot Mihai Crihan also criticized Moldovan authorities for not freeing them earlier. In his account of the inhumane conditions in which the pilots were held in Afghanistan, Crihan said the Taliban [banned in Russia] were prepared to free the two at the end of 2017, but nobody came to collect them.

Mihail Capatina, the Moldovan Foreign Ministry's secretary general of state, said ministry officials had travelled to Afghanistan and that the relevant agencies had worked to secure their liberation. Capatina assured the pilots that they could return home at any time, their documents would be drawn up for them, and the embassy in Moscow would provide them with any consular support they needed.

Interfax reported earlier that Moldovan President Igor Dodon had announced the liberation of the two Moldovan pilots on February 11. He vowed to personally travel to Moscow to bring the pilots back to Chisinau.