Leaders of Moldova undermine one of the foundations of settlement: the observance of the principle of territorial integrity


Exclusive interview given by Deputy Chairperson of the Government of the PMR for International Cooperation – Minister of Foreign Affairs Nina Shtanski to Novosti Pridnestrovya news agency

Nina Viktorovna, there is the intensification of contacts between Pridnestrovie and Moldova over the last few weeks...

In fact, the interaction between the parties is still happening. Even when the representatives of the Republic of Moldova turned to their internal issues greatly - the formation of the government, ministries, and so on, the contacts are being maintained, official correspondence is being done, meetings of expert (working) groups are being held.

However, you are right in the sense that efforts of both sides – Pridnestrovie and Moldova - are needed to strengthen cooperation. Now, at least in terms of the dynamics of the meetings we see that the Moldovan counterparts meet us halfway - two meetings of representatives on political issues have been held, another one is planned for September 10, 2015. Pridnestrovie has proposed to hold 5 meetings of expert (working) groups this week. However, we have managed to organize not all of them, in the end.

Pridnestrovie continues to work proactively with the new government of Moldova, tries to find elements that could contribute to confidence building and improvement of people’s welfare.

Speaking of confidence ... What prevents the establishment of a comprehensive atmosphere of confidence between Pridnestrovie and Moldova, which is the aim of the so-called “small steps tactics”? What problem is the most acute in the dialogue?

Problematic aspects in the dialogue between the parties hold out enough for many years of negotiations. We have made progress in some areas, such as education, freedom of movement across the Moldovan border. However, for example, Moldova constantly worsens the situation in economy by taking unilateral measures of pressure on Pridnestrovie and business.

The problem of politically motivated prosecutions against Pridnestrovians in the Republic of Moldova is the most acute for the last year and a half, without exaggeration.

The Pridnestrovian side considers the Moldovan “criminal carrot” as an element of overt and blatant pressure and blackmail. The great majority of criminal cases initiated in Moldova against Pridnestrovians are politicized, artificial and fabricated in our view.

The Moldovan side in an attempt to “intimidate” Pridnestrovians or comply with the ambitions of some political forces within Moldova makes an extremely dangerous activity: it violates one of the fundamental principles of the settlement - the principle of territorial integrity, according to which the parties exercise jurisdiction on the controlled territory on their own. Bringing imbalances in the implementation of this basic formula can be fraught with serious consequences.

What is the current situation in the field of criminal cases?

The situation has deteriorated considerably over the last few years. In 2012-2013 the parties conducted quite sticky negotiations to end about 60 criminal cases against officials of Pridnestrovie inherited from late 1990s and early 2000s - Yevgeny Shevchuk and Vladimir Filat discussed the issue in Rottach-Egern on 16 September 2013 and signed the Minutes of meeting of representatives on political issues in Kishinev. However, the Moldovan side sabotaged the implementation of the reached agreements.

Today, the number of criminal cases against officials of the PMR has increased at least twice. Besides, about 50 Pridnestrvian entrepreneurs, as well as land users and ordinary citizens are prosecuted in Moldova.

In addition, Moldova started to use international mechanisms available to it to increase the pressure in that dimension, put a significant number of officials and entrepreneurs of Pridnestrovie on the international wanted list. Only for the current summer there have been 4 cases of detention of former and current officials of the republic in some countries. One of them - the arrest of Pridnestrovian militiaman Maksim Kuzmichev in the Hellenic Republic - has not been resolved until now.

Moreover, even the Pridnestrovian side does not have a full picture about the number of criminal cases, as Moldova in spite of the agreement reached at the working meeting of experts on the termination of criminal cases on April 24, 2015 has not submitted its comments on the passed list of Pridnestrovian officials criminally prosecuted in the RM (editor's note: for more information on this matter see the website of the PMR’s Foreign Ministry mfa-pmr.org/ru/xCF).

The problem of criminal cases is a stable part of the agenda of negotiations between Pridnestrovie and Moldova in various formats. In particular, it was discussed in the meetings of leaders in March and April this year, at special consultations with participation of delegations in the “5+2” format in Vienna, and also during the meetings of representatives on political issues held in August 2015 (editor's note: more information on this matter is at the website of the PMR’s Foreign Ministry mfa-pmr.org/ru/xCQ and http://mfa-pmr.org/ru/hyz).

It is felt that my Moldovan counterpart Victor Osipov understands the negative impact of the initiated criminal cases on the nature of the dialogue between the parties. During the meetings he repeatedly informed me and representatives of the mediators and observers about the self-sacrificing work carried out to search for the legal framework for termination of the criminal cases, including with the use of the international experience. According to him, the government agencies of the Republic of Moldova which are responsible for the prosecution of citizens have received information about the European precedents of termination of criminal cases in the conflict regions and gradually change their rigid approaches in regard to the prosecution of citizens of Pridnestrovie.

Nina Viktorovna, to be honest, it is difficult to understand the situation. You are in talks with the Moldovan side on the termination of criminal proceedings, even you are talking about that there is understanding among certain representatives of the Moldovan side of the need to address the issue. Then, how can you comment on the statements of Victor Osipov in the programme “Fabrika” that “the complete cessation of criminal proceedings is out of the question” because “these cases relate to the commission of grave and especially grave crimes”?

Unfortunately, there is a noticeable lack of consistency in the messages of the Moldovan side, indeed. Over the last month we have got the opportunity to hear at least three versions of Victor Osipov on the prospects of development of the situation in the sphere of criminal proceedings. He reports the most optimistic version to international partners and diplomats accredited in Moldova. A quite optimistic, so to speak, “light version” is used for the dialogue with Pridnestrovie, and has already been described by me in answer to the previous question.

An intransigent and tough stance, apparently, is transmitted to the domestic audience.

Perhaps this approach of Victor Osipov is connected with sensitivity of the matter on criminal cases for the Moldovan side. Although I cannot call it as justified.

Indeed, the absence of a united political line in the Republic of Moldova in cooperation with Pridnestrovie - this is the problem that Kishinev should decide on its own and not hide behind it as a kind of justification for its actions.

This “confusion” in Victor Osipov’s comments, certainly, does not help to understand the situation, sometimes giving the impression sometimes that the Moldovan side plays a kind of “imitation game”, stalls for time and hides their true motives and intentions.

However, in the framework of the meeting held on the 21 of August 2015, the representative on political issues Victor Osipov commenting on his own contradictory statements said that the delegation of the Council of Europe plans to visit Moldova on 7 and 8 September 2015 to develop recommendations for termination of criminal cases. Also, according to the Moldovan negotiator, the autumn-winter session of the Parliament will have to contribute to resolving the problem, representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the Superior Council of Magistracy of the Republic of Moldova will be involved in its work.

What are consequences of the “criminal problem” for the dialogue between the parties as a whole?

The existence of politically motivated criminal cases entails a loss of confidence between Pridnestrovie and Moldova, as it is very problematic to conduct a dialogue when one of the partners constantly tries to bite the other more painfully. The Moldovan side’s attempt to induce Pridnestrovie to any concessions through a set of tools such as pressure and blackmail threatens to create an impasse in the negotiations.

Prosecution destabilizes the negotiating structure as a whole and cuts off some platforms for a dialogue, thus undermining the space for compromises. In particular, today the prosecution of Pridnestrovian officials in Moldova has already had a negative impact on the activities of a number of expert (working) groups, on the functioning of the “5+2” format. Expansion of the problem can lead to even more disastrous consequences. Hopefully, the Republic of Moldova realizes it and finally will begin a systematic and practical work to withdraw from criminal cases.

What are the plans and prospects in this field?

The position of Pridnestrovie remains unchanged - we are in favour of a complete cessation of politically motivated criminal cases on the basis of reciprocity and goodwill.

There is international experience and precedents, Moldovan representatives studied them, there are also agreements between the parties in this area. The Moldovan side should only show the political will and readiness for compromise decisions.

During the meeting of representatives on political issues Victor Osipov reiterated the principled readiness of Moldova to hold in the near future (perhaps, at the beginning of September 2015), a working meeting of experts on the termination of criminal cases. Such meetings have not been held for 4 months. At the meeting subject matter experts of the sides will finally have to share objective information about the number of defendants in criminal cases from both sides and offer realistic solutions to existing problems. Pridnestrovie insists that the meeting will be attended by authorized representatives of the Moldovan Prosecutor's Office.

Along with this, Pridnestrovie petitioned the Moldovan side and mediators for the withdrawal of officials and entrepreneurs of Pridnestrovie who are criminally prosecuted in Moldova from the international search. I hope this decision in accordance with international practice will be taken, since even Interpol’s practice does not allow to prosecute people for political grounds.

For example, on August 23, 2015 Interpol announced the termination of the investigation of a Russian citizen German Sterligov, who was declared internationally wanted by Azerbaijan for political reasons - in connection with the visit to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The Pridnestrovian side believes that similar approaches can be also applied to officials and entrepreneurs of the republic.

The Pridnestrovian side also hopes that in the near future we will be able to achieve the extradition of Pridnestrovian militiaman Maksim Kuzmichev from the Hellenic Republic. The Moldovan side has promised to send relevant documents to the Greek prosecutor's office and judicial authorities this week. We are in constant touch with the mediators, observers, diplomatic corps in Kishinev, the Greek authorities and, of course, with Victor Osipov on the release of a law enforcement officer of Pridnestrovie, and before it - to ensure normal conditions of his detention, including the provision of medical care.

In the future, the parties should abandon attempts to interfere in each other's criminal jurisdiction and go back to the realistic interaction corresponding to the conditions of settlement established over 25 years. In particular, it would be wise in a trust-based dialogue to return to the study of prospects of mutual recognition of judicial decisions in view of fixing a clear division between the parties of the rights and responsibilities for the implementation of judicial and law enforcement activities on the controlled territory - it would allow to create a very stable cooperation.