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Stuck in rogue airspace: Moldova seizes Transnistria petitions from Russian delegation jet

Published time: May 11, 2014 04:26
Image from facebook.com/dmitry.rogozin

Image from facebook.com/dmitry.rogozin

Moldova has seized thousands of petitions from the citizens of Transnistria seeking “reunification with Russia” from a Russian delegation’s plane, as politicians had a hard time leaving the breakaway state with all neighboring airspaces closed for them.

“Moldovan secret services on-board our plane are confiscating boxes with Transdniestrians’ signatures for reunification with Russia,” Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin tweeted.

These documents, according to Rogozin, were transferred to him by activists during his visit to Tiraspol for Victory Day celebrations.

“Yesterday we received signatures that were handed to us by activists of the Union of Russian Communities,” the Deputy Prime Minister added.

The politician's assistant has also confirmed that “special forces” have seized the boxes with signatures and have driven them away. Another member of the Russian delegation that visited Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, Russian MP Aleksey Zhuravlev said there were more than 30,000 signatures.

Moldova said the documents were seized by “competent authorities” in order to “analyze their legitimacy” within the context of the country’s laws.

“The private visit to the Republic of Moldova by the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, accompanied by a group of deputies from the State Duma of the Federal Assembly as well as members of the Russian government has not passed without provocative statements against the Republic of Moldova,” Chisinau statement read, as cited by Itar-Tass.

The statement went on to say that prior to the Russian delegation's visit to Transnistria, which Moldova considers its sovereign territory, Chisinau urged the delegation through “diplomatic channels” to “refrain from comments that may harm bilateral relations.”

Transnistria is a breakaway region of Moldova located between the River Dniester and the eastern Moldovan border with Ukraine. Since its declaration of independence in 1990, unrecognized by the UN, and the War of Transnistria in 1992, it has been governed as an autonomous territorial unit with special legal status. Most of its citizens speak Russian. Up to 1,500 Russian peacekeepers are protecting order there, under the agreement with Moldova.

Despite such request the statement reads, “the representative of Russia once again allowed himself express to erroneous evaluations and comments of the sovereign choice of the development of our country.”

“Recent actions and statements by Rogozin are counterproductive and not conducive to the promotion of the Transnistrian settlement process.”

The Moldovan authorizes were able to seize the documents after the plane carrying Russian politicians was forced to land in Chisinau after both Ukraine and Romania restricted its airspace to the Russian Rusjet Yak 42.

On Saturday, Rogozin tweeted that Romania closed its airspace “at the request of the US.” Ukraine also banned the plane from flying over its territory.

“Upon a US request, Romania has closed its air space for my plane,” he tweeted. “Ukraine doesn't allow me to pass through again. Next time I'll fly on board TU-160,” he said implying that with all the neighboring airspaces closed only Russia's largest strategic bomber could pierce through.

Shocked by the “TU-160” remark, the Romanian Foreign Ministry has requested Russia for an explanation over Rogozin's reaction to being barred from its airspace. Bucharest wants to know if the politician's comments represented Russia's official position towards Romania.

“The threat of using a Russian strategic bomber plane by a Russian deputy prime minister is a very grave statement under the current regional context,” the statement read.

Romania justified its own actions by “simply following sanctions” imposed by the EU against Russia over Ukraine, although it remains unclear how the visa ban of one person is related to the rejection of crossing airspace for the whole aircraft.

The Romanians did not mention why the same rules were not followed during Rogozin's initial travel to Tiraspol on May 8, when his plane was forced by Ukraine – and was allowed to – fly over Bulgaria and Romania to reach the veterans of Transnistria for Victory Day celebrations.

Image from facebook.com/dmitry.rogozin

The Russian Foreign Ministry is yet to reply to Romania's request, meanwhile Rogozin tweeted, “Off, despite the ban,” before returning to Moscow. Apparently, as explained in the Russian embassy in Moldova, Rogozin jumped on a regularly scheduled commercial flight to return to Moscow, as the rest of Russia's delegation waited for aviation authorities to be cleared for takeoff.

At the same time, Ukrainian authorities forced the aircraft carrying the rest of the Russian delegation to fly back to Moldova shortly after takeoff, apparently fearing that Rogozin, who is placed on the EU sanctions list, might still be onboard.

“Our plane was ordered to return to Chisinau, threatening forced landing in Ukraine,” Vladimir Medinsky, Russia's culture minister said on Saturday, explaining that at first, the jet was cleared for takeoff, but as the flight just started to ascend, it was forced down, most likely following Washington's request. Kiev itself explained that Rusjet (RSJ) was not given flight permission “in connection with gross violations of Ukraine's airspace use, namely landing at a closed Simferopol airport.”

The rest of the delegation was eventually also forced to take a regular scheduled flight from Chisinau to Moscow.