RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Autor)
Moldova's foreign minister says the detention of former President Igor Dodon on suspicion of treason and corruption is about Moldova's fight against corruption and "unrelated to geopolitical events."
Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu said on May 26 that the arrest of Dodon, whose home was searched earlier this week, is related only to the election of a government that has pledged to root out corruption.
"The fight against corruption starts from the top, from combating corruption among the political class among the oligarchs," Popescu said in an interview with RFE/RL.
Popescu said there was evidence in the form of a video that is available online purporting to show Dodon, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, receiving a bag of money from an oligarch.
The case against Dodon is not the only one that has been launched, Popescu said. There have been several indictments, and Moldova is seeking the extradition of "several oligarchs...who have stolen a lot of money from Moldova and have escaped to other countries," he said.
He also responded to comments by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko, who said on May 25 that Moscow would not like to see Moldovan authorities begin "settling scores with their former political rivals."
Popescu said Moldovan authorities are "subject to a political mandate from our population, and we don't find these statements as being relevant, useful, [or] correct."
The Kremlin and the Russian government have both warned that Moscow is closely monitoring Dodon's case and whether his rights are being respected.
Moldovan prosecutors have asked that Dodon be placed in pretrial detention for 30 days.
Prosecutors on May 24 searched Dodon's home and confiscated luxury goods, foreign currency, receipts, and other documents.
He was later arrested for 72 hours as part of a judicial investigation into suspected treason, corruption, illicit enrichment, and illegal party financing.
"Anti-corruption prosecutors have filed their request that Dodon be detained for 30 days and the court is due to assess their request," Mariana Cherpec, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, said on May 25.
Dodon was president from 2016 to 2020, when he lost to pro-Western Maia Sandu, a U.S.-educated former World Bank official.
Dodon, 47, has denied all the accusations against him and blamed Sandu for wanting to distract people from the country's economic woes.
In Chisinau, dozens of members and sympathizers of Dodon's Party of Socialists took to the streets on May 25, calling for his release and accusing the authorities of political persecution.
Sandwiched between Ukraine and EU and NATO-member Romania, Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has accepted hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees.
Chisinau has firmly backed Kyiv since Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia maintains more than 1,000 troops in Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester.
Moldova formally applied for European Union membership in March after Russia's unprovoked invasion.
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