11 Feb 2019 22:53

Moldovan parliament speaker accuses Dodon of pre-election PR move regarding release of Moldovan pilots in Afghanistan

CHISINAU. Feb 11 (Interfax) - Moldovan parliament speaker Andrian Candu has been perplexed by the fact that two Moldovan pilots freed from captivity in Afghanistan have been transported to Moscow, but not to Chisinau, and has accused President Igor Dodon of a desire to earn political gains on their release.

"Someone interfered at the last moment, changing their destination to Moscow. Our citizens became hostages in Moscow. They have been held there over the past three months for Igor Dodon to get an advantage at upcoming elections," Candu said in a message to Moldovan citizens on Monday.

Dodon has intentionally done so before the parliamentary elections due on February 24, he said.

"This is absolutely illegal, this can be even considered as a crime against Moldovan citizens. This looks like a crime committed against our citizens. Everybody should understand that pre-election wars should not prevail over the interests of the state, and the future of Moldovan citizens," the speaker said.

At the same time, he called it "perfect news" that two Moldovan pilots have been released from captivity in Afghanistan. "I know what kind of effort the country's government and various bodies have taken over the past three years. I congratulate everybody, who is involved in the settlement of this problem," Candu said.

Earlier on Monday, Dodon said at a press briefing about the release of two Moldovan pilots, who have been held in captivity in Afghanistan over the past three-and-a-half years.

The two Moldovan pilots "have been deliberately held in captivity before the elections in Moldova and money was paid for that," Renato Usatii, an opposition politician and the Our Party leader, wrote on social networks on Monday. He wrote on Facebook that he has warned about that in April 2018 and said that "a PR campaign will be launched during the electoral campaign," misusing the issue of freeing the pilots.

Usatii said the he had learned about the approximate whereabouts of the pilots in the fall of 2017, and after that he began preparations for their freeing, and talked to them via video link-ups. Usatii posed online a video message of these Moldovan pilots in the spring of 2018. Ion Buruiana and Mihai Crihan asked their families for help in the video message.

As reported, on November 24, 2015, a Mil Mi-8 helicopter, which belonged to the Moldovan company Valan ICC and was involved in a peacekeeping operation under the UN aegis in Afghanistan, came under fire of Taliban militants. One of the crewmembers managed to report to the company owning the helicopter that it had to make an emergency landing in the Faryab Province controlled by the Taliban terrorist organization (banned in Russia). Three people were killed in an exchange of fire, and the Taliban captured the other 18, after that the helicopter was burned.

Moldovan commander of the crew Oleg Groza was killed in the crash of the helicopter. His body was transported to Chisinau, where he was buried in December 2015. Other two pilots Buruiana and Crihan have been held in captivity over about three-and-a-half years.