Thousands take part in anti-government protest in Moldova


Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita attends a news conference after the donors’ conference for Moldova to help the country cope with the influx of refugees from Ukraine, in Berlin, Germany April 5, 2022. REUTERS/ Hannibal Hanschke

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CHISINAU, Sept 18 (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters denouncing high inflation and fuel prices gathered outside the Moldovan government on Sunday to demand the resignation of pro-Western President Maia Sandu and her government.

It was the biggest protest in the tiny ex-Soviet state since Sandu was elected in a 2020 landslide over promises to stamp out corruption. It has since promised to secure membership in the European Union, which has provided significant aid.

The crowd in the town’s main square appeared to number around 20,000, although opposition organizers said the number was twice as large and police estimated 6,500 people were present.

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“Moldova is now in clinical death, which the current authorities have brought it to,” said Dinu Turcanu, a politician from the opposition party of Ilan Shor, an exiled businessman convicted of fraud. part of a billion-dollar banking scandal.

The main suspect of this fraud, business tycoon Vlad Plahotniuc, is also outside Moldova, his whereabouts are unknown.

Moldova buys its gas from Russian gas giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM) under a deal struck last year. The price fluctuates monthly, calculated from the spot price of gas and oil depending on the season. Spot prices have skyrocketed this year.

Sandwiched between Ukraine and EU member Romania, the territory of Moldova was in turn part of the Russian Empire, “Greater Romania” and the Soviet Union in the 19th and 20th centuries. .

Its 3.5 million people are experiencing severe economic hardship linked to energy prices, the cost of which rose 29% in September after jumping nearly 50% in August.

Since Sandu came to power, Moldova’s attorney general has been removed from office and its former president, close to Moscow, placed under house arrest.

Protesters accused Sandu of failing to negotiate a more reasonable gas price with Moscow. Many set up a tent camp outside the seat of government and vowed to stay put until Sandu resigns and calls a snap election.

The country has reduced its growth estimate to zero for 2022, penalized by record inflation at 34.3% and interest rates at 21.5%.

Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said this month that the Moldovan economy is expected to show moderate growth of 1.5% next year.

Analyst Vitaly Andrievschi dismissed suggestions from some commentators that Sandu resembled the late Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a lauded liberal in the West but unpopular at home.

“Sandu’s biggest flaw is not being able to communicate with ordinary Moldovans,” he told Reuters. “Sandu and his government are unable to take their share of responsibility and punish those who are blatantly unable to do their job.

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Reporting by Alexander Tanas, writing by Pavel Polityuk and Ron Popeski; edited by David Evans and Diane Craft

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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