Moldovan Whistle-Blower Feared Abducted By Transdniester Separatists

Human rights activists and the family of a whistle-blower about abuses in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniester’s army say the young man is missing and they fear he was abducted by paramilitary elements in the separatist administration.

Moldovan government officials have pledged to inquire with the breakaway authorities and inform the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE)’s mission in an effort to find Alexandru Rjavitin.

Rjavitin had escaped conscription in the Transdniestrian militia’s ranks in 2015 before fleeing across the Dniester River to reach territory controlled by the Chisinau-based government.

He appeared in an RFE/RL documentary in 2017 describing ill-treatment of young recruits in the breakaway military force.

The separatist administration in Tiraspol opened a criminal case against Rjavitin, and he risks a long prison sentence in Transdniester for “desertion and divulging state secrets.”

He reportedly disappeared on the evening of December 18 after traveling to Transdniester to visit his family in the town of Pervomaisc.

Moldovan rights group Promo-Lex, which had assisted Rjavitin since he fled Transdniester, has appealed to the authorities and the public to help find him.

Moldova’s deputy prime minister for reintegration, Alexandru Flenchea, vowed on Facebook that officials would ask the Transdniestrian separatists about Rjavitin’s whereabouts and would urge the OSCE to pursue legal avenues to get him back.

Promo-Lex has repeatedly drawn attention to the problem of forced conscriptions of young Transdniestrians by the breakaway administration.

Pro-Russian separatists in Transdniester declared independence from Moldova in 1990 amid concerns that officials in Chisinau would seek reunification with Romania as the Soviet Union disintegrated.

The separatists fought a war against government forces two years later in which about 1,000 people were killed.

The conflict has been frozen since Russian troops stationed in Transdniester in the Soviet era intervened on the side of the separatists.

Transdniester’s independence is not recognized by any internationally recognized country.

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