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Moldova Rejects Russian Criticism For Prisoner Honors

The so-called Ilascu group -- Andrei Ivanțoc, Tudor Popa, and Ștefan Urîtu (left to right) -- at a news conference on August 10.
CHISINAU -- Moldova has rejected Russian criticism over its decision to decorate the members of the "Ilascu group" who were imprisoned for years by officials in the breakaway region of Transdniester, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

Moldova's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on August 11 that Russia is displaying "tendentious views" about the 1992 separatist war in Moldova's Transdniester region and has overlooked a decision from the European Court for Human Rights about Ilascu's case.

It is the first official reaction from Chisinau to a comment made last week by Russia's Foreign Ministry, which accused Moldovan acting President Mihai Ghimpu of "explicit actions to justify criminal acts by Moldovan nationalists" during the separatist war.

Earlier this month, Ghimpu decorated Ilie Ilascu and the other three members of his group for their "contribution to the national freedom movement."

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement published on its website that Ghimpu's decision "could undermine the trust-building measures" between Chisinau and the Transdniestran capital of Tiraspol.

It also accused Ilascu group members of committing atrocities during the 1992 war in Transdiester.

Ilie Ilascu and three other soldiers where captured by separatist fighters in Transdniester in 1992 and charged with the murder of two separatist officials.

One year later, Ilascu was sentenced to death by a local court in Tiraspol and other three defendants were sentenced to hard labor for terms between 12 and 15 years.

Ilascu was released in 2001 after being granted Romanian citizenship and being elected to the Senate two years after he filed an appeal to the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg. The other three group members were released after serving their prison terms.

The Strasbourg court ruled in a 2004 decision that the rights of Ilascu and other members of the group were violated. The court also said that Russia had supported the separatist regime in Transdniester during and after the war and took no measures to release the defendants, who were under Russia's de facto jurisdiction.

The Moldovan Foreign Ministry also asked Russian officials to abstain from participating in celebrations expected in Transdiester in early September to mark 20 years since the separatist region declared its independence from Moldova.