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Moldovans protest against US, NATO military display in capital

Moldovans hold banners with anti-NATO messages during a protest in the border town of Sculeni, Maldova, May 3, 2016. (Photo by AP)

Hundreds of people in the Eastern European country of Moldova have taken to the streets of the capital, Chisinau, to protest against a display of NATO and US military vehicles in the city.

Supporters of the opposition Socialist Party chanted slogans like “NATO go home” and “We don’t Need NATO,” and carried banners with anti-US messages during the protest on Sunday, the day commemorating the end of the second World War in Europe.

US and NATO soldiers, who had organized an exhibition of military vehicles and equipment in Chisinau earlier in the day, were forced to leave the city following the demonstration.

The opposition Socialist Party denounced the exhibition in the capital, calling it “sacrilege against the people of Moldova.”

“Moldova is a peaceful and neutral state. We take part in no military blocs and don’t want war. We saw what happened in Yugoslavia, Libya, [and] Syria. If you don’t go before tomorrow, there will be thousands of us here,” said Vlad Bartincea, an opposition lawmaker.

Some 200 US forces and 165 Moldavian soldiers are currently involved in the joint US-Moldova Dragon Pioneer military exercises, which kicked off in the republic on May 2 and will run until May 20.

US military vehicles drive on a road in the border town of Sculeni, Moldova, as some 200 US soldiers arrive in the country for joint military exercises, May 3, 2016. (Photo by AP)

Moldova, a former Soviet Union republic, is officially neutral, but its pro-Western government has good ties with NATO.

Russia has long complained that NATO — a Russian adversary since the days of the Cold War — is moving eastward toward Russian borders, and deems such a development a threat to its security.

Relations between Russia and NATO soured after the Crimean Peninsula separated from Ukraine and joined the Russian Federation following a referendum in March 2014.

The military alliance ended all practical cooperation with Russia over the ensuing crisis in Ukraine in April 2014.

The US-led NATO accuses Moscow of destabilizing Ukraine. Moscow, however, rejects having a hand in the Ukrainian crisis.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently voiced his country’s concerns regarding NATO’s expansion.

“NATO military infrastructure is inching closer and closer to Russia’s borders. But when Russia takes action to ensure its security, we are told that Russia is engaging in dangerous maneuvers near NATO borders,” he said late last month.

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