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Thousands rally in Moldova’s capital in protest against country's pro-Western government

Demonstrators protest against the recent countrywide increase of power rates and prices during an anti-government rally in Chisinau, Moldova, March 12, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in the capital city of Moldova to demand resignation of the country’s pro-Western government.

Protesters held signs during Sunday demonstrations and chanting slogans as they gathered in front of the parliament building in Chisinau.

Demonstrators called on President Maia Sandu to step down, blaming her for not doing enough to address the country’s economic issues.

They demanded the Moldovan government fully cover the costs of winter energy bills, urging lawmakers "not involve the country in the war" between Ukraine and Russia.

The protesters also accused the president of giving in to European policies by trying to pull the country into the Ukraine war.

The new development came as Moldova has been accusing Russia of plotting to overthrow Sandu, while the United States pledged to support her government against "destabilization."

Russia has expressed concern about tensions in Transdniestria, a separatist region in Moldova, where it has kept some 1,500 peacekeepers since a brief war that broke out after the collapse of Soviet rule.

The Moldovan police on Sunday moved to keep several thousand demonstrators away from government buildings. The riot police also set up roadblocks with buses to confine them to a district far from those buildings.

Officials said 54 people were detained on public order violations. Several busloads of demonstrators were kept from entering the capital.

The Moldovan government says the main force behind the protests is opposition pro-Russian politician Ilan Sor.

"Why do Moldova's Western partners support Maia Sandu, yet shut their eyes when people are kept away from the government to express their needs," Marina Tauber, head of Sor's party, told the gathering, adding, "Can you see this in any other European country?"

Andrei Spinu, head of Sandu's administration, denounced Sunday's rally as "not a protest, alleging, "This was yet another attempt by Russia to destabilize the situation in Moldova."

Moldovan police chief Viorel Cernauteanu earlier told reporters that officers had staged a series of raids and detained seven people on suspicion of trying to cause serious disruption at demonstrations.

Sandu was elected in 2020 on a pledge to clean up corruption and has since started the long process of applying for European Union membership.

The previous administration was forced from office after protracted turmoil and difficulties in paying high prices for Russian gas.

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