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A tangled web in S’ville

Medical personnel treat Bulgar Mihai at a clinic
Medical personnel treat Bulgar Mihai at a clinic earlier this month after he was attacked at a Sihanoukville casino and stabbed in the torso. PHOTO SUPPLIED

A tangled web in S’ville

‘All I can say is lies. Lies, lies, and again lies.”

So says Oleg Tikhanov, the alleged mastermind behind the February 13 attack in Sihanoukville’s Queenco casino that left three injured, according to police.

Tikhanov, sitting at a table in his biker-themed bar, tells a different story from the one told by Vladimir Palancica, one of the alleged targets of the attack.

According to Palancica, the general manager of kaZantip’s tour company Lotus Tours, men employed by Tikhanov’s company Oceania arrived at Queenco and demanded a $45,000 cut of the profits from the Eastern European electronic music festival.

When they refused, the group of men Palancica was with – who he says were tourists from his home country of Moldova – was viciously attacked with guns and machetes.

But Queenco casino security footage seen by the Post shows the story behind the brawl to be considerably muddier than as first recounted.

In the video, about seven of Palancica’s men, all heavily muscled, are sitting down and waiting around a table.

As an employee from Oceania walks in, three get up. When the Oceania employee starts talking, almost immediately, several of the men grab him and beat him to the ground.

“You can classify this as an attempt to kill, an attempted beating . . . because the people purposefully beat his head on the concrete. And they did it professionally,” Tikhanov insists.

The rest of Tikhanov’s men, who were waiting not far behind, rush onto the scene and a full-on brawl begins between both sides.

“It’s absolutely true – they started the fight. Factually,” says Tikhanov.

But Palancica said the video was far from definitive.

“They came with knives and guns from outside [the video]. They came with guns, a machete – they want to kill us, and we defend ourselves.”

“If we started the fight, why they not come to police?”

Kol Phally, Sihanoukville provincial deputy police chief, said that he did not know who began the brawl, and could not comment on the case as he was waiting for more information from the court.

KaZantip’s organisers may have wanted to put the incident behind them for publicity reasons, following the event’s public cancellation on February 17. But Tikhanov has now become the festival’s chief bogeyman.

A statement on kaZantip’s website from yesterday, authored by the self-styled independent republic’s “preZident” Nikita Marshunok, said “Tikhanov’s group of armed men is still free, and openly declares it will do everything possible to stop Kazantip from being held.”

It adds that members of Oceania had threatened to blow up the bridge to Koh Puos, where the festival was originally supposed to be held.

However, Tikhanov, a member of the Russian Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia, said that far from threatening kaZantip, Oceania had actually worked as contractor for the festival, helping with logistics and marketing.

Tikhanov said Oceania was dissatisfied with kaZantip’s repeated delays in obtaining official permission from the Cambodian authorities, which led to a falling out.

About a month ago, Oceania filed a court complaint saying kaZantip had not paid for their contracting services; after that, the relationship ended.

According to Palancica, “Oceania group come not to help kaZantip – only to demand money”.

“What happened in Queenco happened two weeks after I submitted to the court. I don’t know if it’s a reaction,” said Tikhanov to the sound of a motorcycle engine revving up outside the bar.

The sides remain locked in a bitter argument, with both claiming that the other wants them dead.

“We are tired of never-ending wars, of never-ending bandit clashes – we have that at home,” said Tikhanov.

Requests for comment to kaZantip’s organisers were not answered.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY PHAK SEANGLY

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