Moldova says incident with four Russians in Chisinau was misunderstanding

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CHISINAU, July 15 (RIA Novosti, Vladimir Novosadyuk) - The detention of four Russians in Chisinau on July 9 was a misunderstanding, a spokesman for the Moldovan police said Friday.

The spokesman said, "It was a misunderstanding, which had nothing to do with any political or other processes." He said that there had been no instructions to conduct meticulous passport checks or detain people.

The official said that the Russians had Xerox copies of their identity papers. This aroused police suspicions as they had never seen such copies before, and it was this that made them arrest the Russians.

The spokesman said that Moldovan officials had apologized to the Russians for the actions of the Moldovan police.

The four Russians were on a business trip to Moldova, which had been authorized by the Russian Foreign Ministry, when they were charged with attempting to take photos of the country's parliament in the center of Chisinau on July 9. Police said that trying to take these photos was illegal under Moldovan law.

One of the Russians had a diplomatic passport and was released. The others, who were only carrying xerox copies of their documents, were taken to a police station. Several hours later they were also released.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was outraged by the incident. He said Thursday that it not only violated international conventions, but went beyond normal civilized relations between friendly states and nations.

On July 9, the Moldovan authorities arrested two other Russians, representatives of the Commonwealth of Independent States Election Monitoring Organization (CIS-EMO). Alexei Kochetkov and Vladimir Lebyodkin were arrested at a Moldovan checkpoint. The arrests were preceded by a brawl between the election observers and a plain clothed police officer.

On Sunday morning Kochetkov and Lebyodkin were sentenced to thirteen and seven days imprisonment respectively for an administrative offence.

"We consider such actions unacceptable. The Moldovan leadership seems to be doing everything possible, and even impossible, to block the Transdnestr settlement and further mar Russian-Moldovan relations," the Russian Foreign Minister said during talks with OSCE Chairman Dimitrij Rupel Wednesday.

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