RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Maksim Yaroshevsky is among the many outside journalists and observers who experienced unexpected difficulties getting into Moldova to observe today's parliamentary elections.
Here's what Yaroshevsky had to say in a report filed late last night (Russian text here
"The Moldovan border service detained me as I was leaving the airport [in Chisinau] and took my documents. A fairly serious bureaucrat asked me to go into an interview room and there I was told that they just need to check my documents and confirm that I had been accredited to cover the elections. Then they told me that since I didn't have accreditation, I had to go back to Moscow. They didn't tell me where this supposed need for accreditation suddenly came from and refused to show me a list of accredited journalists. The colleagues that I called all told me they were hearing about accreditation for the first time.
"All this continued for about 2 1/2 hours. But when I tried to call the Russian Embassy in Chisinau, the problem suddenly resolved itself. I was just told that there had been a misunderstanding and was released into the city."
Russian political analyst Aleksandr Kynev also told RFE/RL about an unpleasant experience in Chisinau:
"Today [July 28] at 6 a.m., some police came to our hotel. They took us to a police station and told us that we have to leave Moldova by the end of the day and made us sign statements saying that we had been warned. They didn't show us any documents. We gathered our things and headed toward Chisinau. We were constantly being followed by different cars. The police stopped us from time to time and checked our documents. At one police post near the capital the police took our driver off about 10 meters by himself. At that time, several big guys with shaved heads and black t-shirts, one covered in tattoos, approached us and asked who we were. Then they warned us to get out of the country fast, otherwise, they warned us, they would break our arms and legs.
"After that conversation, the police released our driver and we finally made it to the outskirts of Chisinau. Observers from all over the country were gathering there. The situation is extremely tense. I was told that observers from Moldovan NGOs and political parties have been under the same sort of pressure. As a result, delegation leaders are discussing the possibility that observers who are officially accredited might be withdrawn for security reasons.
"So, there is pressure from all sides and it creates the impression that it has been orchestrated. Since we do not have official accreditation as observers and we don't have documents, we are here simply as private citizens. But we should be allowed to watch television, read the newspapers, walk on the streets, and observe what is going on in the country. That's not illegal. So why are people who are legally in Moldova and who haven't violated any laws suddenly being told to leave the country? That's the question."
RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Irina Severin asked Yury Chokan, the press secretary of Moldova's Central Election Commission, to comment on the reports. This is what Chokan had to say:
"The status as an observer comes into legal force from the moment he or she is registered with the Central Election Commission. Before registration, any citizen who claims to be an observer nonetheless is simply a private person. Under the laws of the Republic of Moldova, we review all applications for observer status that are filed with us and make a decision about whether to approve or reject them.
"Under the law, we determine who is a qualified observer so that election monitoring is carried out by qualified people, specialists."
Severin asked whether qualification was the only criterion by which applications were judged. Chokan again:
"There are no political motives here and there is no point in looking for them. We review applications on the basis of their invitations. Our rules and election law state that we invite international observers just as is the practice around the world. There isn't a single country where people just come and say, 'I'm here to observe.' It is accepted that monitors are invited. We invited the ones we considered necessary."
-- Robert Coalson