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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UES Adviser Held in Moldovan Probe

Itar-TassValeriu Pasat
CHISINAU, Moldova -- A former Moldovan defense minister has been detained on charges of grand larceny after an investigation into the sale of 21 MiG-29 warplanes to the United States in 1997, Moldovan state radio said Saturday.

It said Valeriu Pasat had been detained at the airport in Chisinau.

"Pasat is suspected on charges of grand larceny in connection with state and military property. ... Moldova sustained damages worth tens of millions of dollars," it said.

The United States bought 21 MiG-29C warplanes from Moldova in 1997 to keep them out of the hands of "rogue states."

Moldova's finance minister at the time said the sale raised $40 million for the state budget. Parliament set up a commission in 1997 to investigate the sale, after complaints that the price was too low. The probe is continuing.

Pasat is now a senior manager at Russian electricity giant Unified Energy Systems. Anatoly Chubais, head of the firm, was quoted by Interfax as saying Pasat's detention was "an unprecedented event and a serious blow for the company."

Chubais said his company held an emergency meeting Saturday and vowed to take action to free the manager. Moldovan prosecutors said the detention was unconnected with Pasat's work at UES.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko in a televised comments said that the Russian Embassy in Moldova was seeking information about Pasat's detention, because he is "a high-level official at a major company that belongs to the state."

In Moscow, about 100 people, many of them Moldovan citizens, protested outside the country's embassy, holding posters and shouting slogans defending Pasat and calling for Voronin to resign.

State news agency Moldpres reported that Pasat had arrived in the Moldovan capital to take part in a meeting of the pro-Moscow opposition, the Democratic Moldova Bloc.

Relations between Moldova and Russia have become strained in recent months.

In elections this month, pro-Western communists won 56 seats in the 101-seat parliament. The party did not secure enough votes to re-elect Voronin.

Voronin dismissed Pasat as chief of Moldova's secret services in 2002.

In February 2004, Chubais appointed Pasat as his foreign economic relations adviser. Pasat was Moldova's ambassador to Russia, and was defense minister from 1997 to 1999.

He was head of the Information and Security Service Director from 2000 to 2002.

(Reuters, AP)