Man accused of setting fire to military draft office in Transnistria faces 30 years in jail

Screenshot of Transnistrian news outlet YouTube video 

A Transnistrian partisan who tried to burn down a military enlistment office in Tiraspol might be sentenced to a record 30 years in prison in February 2023. While no damage was done to the building or people, the possible punishment by the separatist Transnistrian government seems outrageous. The case is getting very little international attention — even from human rights advocates. 

Transnistria, or the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) is described by Wikipedia as “an unrecognised breakaway state that is internationally recognised as a part of Moldova. Transnistria controls most of the narrow strip of land between the Dniester river and the Moldovan–Ukrainian border, as well as some land on the other side of the river's bank. Its capital and largest city is Tiraspol.”

In the early morning of May 13, 2022, two Molotov cocktails were thrown into the building of the military draft office in the center of Tiraspol, which has been forcibly recruiting young people into the illegal armed formations of the so-called “PMR” (Pridnestrovan Moldovan Republic, as it is called in Russian). One of them exploded onto the pavement, the second got stuck in the window bars. There were no dead or injured, and no property was harmed in the military registration and enlistment office. 

According to the Russian state information agency RIA Novosti, the population of Transnistria is 60 percent Russian and Ukrainian. The republic sought secession from Moldova and, in 1992, Transnistria effectively became an uncontrolled territory. Now a task force of Russian troops is stationed there.  

On May 18, 2022, a suspect was detained at the checkpoint at the entrance to Tiraspol. The Transnistrian security officials claim that this is Alexander Dimov, a resident of Chișinău, who allegedly “fulfilled the order of a curator connected with law enforcement agencies of Moldova.” According to the said security forces, Dimov's curator fled to the government-controlled part of Moldova. Together with Dimov, another resident of Chișinău, Vitaly Tsybyrnak, was arrested. 

On July 26, 2022, the separatist “authorities” of Transnistria brought the case of arson to “court.” Alexander Dimov was initially charged with committing arson, frightening the population and creating a danger of death. Later, the charge was reclassified to two more serious ones — sabotage and terrorist attack — which could earn Dimov up to 30 years in prison.

The Bureau for Reintegration (the Moldovan government agency responsible for relations with Transnistria) has repeatedly sent requests to Tiraspol to hand over Alexander Dimov to Moldovan law enforcement agencies.  The so-called Ministry of Internal Affairs of the PMR claims that the curator of the arsonist was allegedly an employee of the Moldovan special services — Ion Lozan, born in 1992.

The Transnistrian authorities claim that the aforementioned “curator” allegedly took pictures of the Russian military, and also asked to find a serviceman from the Operational Group of Russian Forces in Transnistria in order to obtain the necessary information.

On May 24, the Information and Security Service of Moldova commented to the Moldovan news agency  Zona de Securitate on the conclusions reached by Transnistria's law enforcement agencies.

“The Moldovan Seciruty Services considers this a provocation organized by representatives of paramilitary structures in Tiraspol. The statements made by the so-called authorities of the region are not true and are staged in order to attract attention and demonstrate their importance in the context of a difficult regional situation,” said the representative of the Moldovan Security Services.

On the same day, Vadim Krasnoselsky, leader of Transnistria, suggested that the Moldovan prosecutor's office should conduct a joint investigation into the arson. Acting Prosecutor General of Moldova Dimitri Robu rejected this proposal. On January 23, 2023, the so-called Supreme Court of Transnistria extended Dimov's arrest for another two months.  On February 18, 2023,  he will receive a final “verdict.”

Meanwhile, journalists or human rights NGOs were not allowed to attend any of the trials.

It is noteworthy that, unlike many other similar human rights violations in Transnistria, the incident of the arrest of Alexander Dimov and his possible record prison term of up to 30 years did not cause a wide public reaction either in Transnistria or in the part of Moldova controlled by the legitimate authorities.

Arson against military draft offices have been also happening all over Russia since the September 2022 military draft started to man its invasion of Ukraine.  On January 31, 2023,  for the first time, a sentence was passed under the criminal article “Terrorist attack” for setting fire to a military draft office.  According to the BBC-Russia, Vladislav Borisenko, accused of setting fire to a military draft office in Nizhnevartovsk (Yugra region of Russia), was sentenced to 12 years in a strict regime colony. No one was hurt in this incident either, and the building was not damaged. At the end of September, as the BBC reports, Vladimir Tsimlyansky, a spokesman for the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, warned that such crimes could be regarded as “acts of terrorism or as public calls for terrorist activities.”  Indeed, the case of Borisenko was at first classed as “hooliganism” and later was changed to “terrorism,” which draws much harsher sentences.  

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