Victor Pleșcanov, the Tiraspol resident who displayed the Ukrainian flag on the balcony of his apartment in March, was sentenced on September 26 to three years and two months of prison. The illegal sentence was passed by the so-called Tiraspol court for “inciting to extremism”.
He is a civic activist from the Transnistrian region, and has criticised the abuses of Russia’s army following the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, including criticising the illegal stationing of Russian forces in Transnistria.
The court hearing was closed to the public and the sentence imposed on Victor is to be carried out in a colony, a type of prison with an open regime of detention. Currently Victor is detained in the so-called isolator for preventive detention nr 3 of Tiraspol.
The Promo-LEX civic law association said that despite the efforts made nearly four months after his detainment, Victor’s wife does not have access to the materials of the case, including his so-called delegated lawyer, as the documents are considered secret.
In this context, Promo-LEX repeatedly demanded the involvement of the authorities of the Republic of Moldova, and also of international organisations and diplomatic missions to carefully monitor freedom of expression in Transnistria. “We are also calling for prompt efforts to unconditionally release Victor Pleșcanov and for protective measures for his family.”
Timeline of persecution
From February until the announcement of the three year and two month sentence, Victor was persecuted by the Transnistrian MGB, the regime’s security and intelligence service, on at least three occasions. Initially he was demanded to show his documents because he displayed the Ukrainian flag on his balcony. The “militia” is said to have been called by one of his neighbours, and according to the so-called legislation of Transnistria, if a foreign flag is displayed, a Transnistrian flag of equal size must be displayed next to it. The violation was recorded without further action.
During the police visit Victor said he had asked the officer who came to his home: “Why do you support Russia, there are Russian flags everywhere, but I don’t support it, and I said openly that I support Ukraine and consider Russia to be the aggressor.”
Afterwards he was accused that at a cloth shop where he bought the material to make the flag of the neighbouring country, he said out loud that he would display the flag on his balcony and those in the MGB might “wet their pants”.
Ever since that shop visit, Victor and his family were constantly followed. Images were placed in the police dossier of them entering the shop, and later statements from witnesses and the shop keeper suggested Victor used obscene words against them. All of this so-called evidence was collected by the MGB security service despite the initial infraction being considered a common misdemeanour.
On April 5, Victor was called to the police station and told that a complaint for “petty hooliganism” had been made against him, which involves as much as 15 days in detention. He was shown the photo taken at the cloth shop. Finally, he was accused of “violating public order and using obscene language” against the shop keeper.
Therefore, on June 10, Victor was sentenced to five days in administrative detention. Meanwhile, the judge changed the crime from “obscenity” against the salesperson to abusing “security agents of the state”.
The day following the passing of this sentence his home was searched by the MGB. This time it was claimed that the visit was based on criminal investigation regarding “public appeals to extremism” online and through the mass-media.
Victor was then sentenced for extremism, under an article used to silence people who cause discomfort to the regime in the so-called penal code of the unrecognised breakaway enclave. Transnistria had been occupied by the Russian army since a war against Moldova in 1991.
The text of the sentence against Victor has not been made public.
Victor Pleșcanov is 58 and lives with his wife and son in Tirspol. He has had several medical interventions in his life, including the removal of his gallbladder and he requires access to medication and a strict diet.
He was detained in the basement of the temporary detention center of the Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Tiraspol for the entire period of four months.
The activist’s wife had a single visit with Victor, and she does not know his current health condition. Despite making a formal request to appeal the sentence she does not believe it will have an effect on the punishment Victor is under.
The reactions of the authorities
- Mihai Popsoi, deputy speaker of the Moldovan Parliament and the president of the governing Party of Action and Solidarity, said Moldovan authorities “should put pressure on the Transnistrian side during the peace process together with our international partners, to free Victor Pleșcanov, like we do in each similar situation. There are many such cases over there unfortunately.”
- The Political Bureau of Reintegration condemns the sentence of deprivation of liberty applied to the resident of the city of Tiraspol, Victor Plešcanov, after he openly criticized the war in Ukraine.
“We strongly condemn the inhumane and illegal actions of Tiraspol that go against not only the spirit of the law but also common sense. As soon as I learned about this case, the political representative from Tiraspol was notified with the request to ensure the respect of the fundamental rights of the village. Pleșcanov Victor, the unconditional release from detention and the transmission of all materials on this case to the competent legal bodies of the Republic of Moldova. We continue to monitor this case together with the Office of the People’s Advocate”, says the reaction of the institution that deals with the reintegration of the country.
Victor had previously publicly supported dissident Mihail Ermurachi who was accused by the regime of insulting the president, insulting the Russian soldiers and so-called peacekeepers, and instigating religious and racial hatred on the territory of Transnistria. More on the Ermurachi case and its conclusion here and here.
At the time, in February 2021, Victor told Zona de Securitate (tr: Security Zone) that the territory where he lives is occupied but he is constrained to “obey the occupiers,” adding that in this region human life is considered cheap.
“People are scared, they had been scared previously but now life has been brought to a degree of cynicism and people are scared they will go missing one day, under the pretext of sickness or just simply disappearance. Here it costs nothing to involve people with a criminal past and that person to be damaged for life or killed, there is no working law here,” he said.
The cases brought against Transnistrian residents for “incitement to extremism” and similar accusations have become more frequent, and the victims of this trend do not have the possibility to defend their rights. Such have been the cases of Mihail Ermurachi, Ghenadie Ciorba, Alexandr Samonii, Pavel Dogari, Larisa Kalik, Boris Babaian and others.
These persecutions were legalised by so-called President Vadim Krasnoselskii following hiss approval in March 2020 of the “strategy to combat extremism in the Transnistrian region.”