Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Moldovan capital Chisinau on Sunday, demanding the resignation of the pro-Western government over soaring inflation and skyrocketing energy prices.
Around 20,000 angry demonstrators rallied in the main square of the capital city, calling on President Maia Sandu and her government to resign, according to reports.
It was the largest anti-government demonstration in the small former Soviet state since Sandu was elected to office in 2020 on promises of rooting out corruption.
Protesters set up camp outside the government headquarters and vowed to remain there until the government is disbanded.
The small country of 3.5 million people has been grappling with serious economic problems fueled by surging energy prices, which increased by 29 percent in September.
The country buys its gas from Russian gas firm Gazprom under a contract signed last year.
The price keeps changing, calculated from the spot price for gas and oil depending on the season. Spot prices have soared this year.
The pro-western Sandu has promised to secure membership of the European Union for the eastern European country.
She signed the application for EU membership, together with Igor Grosu, the President of Moldovan Parliament and Natalia Gavrilița, the Prime Minister of Moldova, on March 3, 2022.
Since Sandu took power two years ago, Moldova's prosecutor general has been removed and Igor Dodon, who previously served as the president of Moldova, has been placed under house arrest.
The anti-government forces accuse the president of precipitating the current economic crisis in the country by failing to negotiate a more reasonable energy deal with Russia.
"Sandu's biggest shortcoming is being unable to communicate with ordinary Moldovans," analyst Vitalie Andrievschi said in an interview with Reuters.
“Sandu and her government are unable to assume their share of responsibility and punish those clearly unable to do their jobs,” he said.
The country faces record high inflation at 34.3 percent with interest rates at 21.5 percent. Also, the government has slashed its growth estimates to zero.
"Moldova is now in clinical death, to which the current authorities have brought it," Dinu Turcanu, a politician from an opposition party of Ilan Shor, was quoted as saying.