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HomeNewsMoldovan Protesters Urge Russia's Involvement

Moldovan Protesters Urge Russia’s Involvement

Moldovan Protesters Urge Russia’s Involvement

Under Moldova’s soaring parliament building, a procession of its most vulnerable citizens – bused in from all over the country, each with their own story of destitution and despair – passes slowly by.

Ala tells me, “We’re a laughingstock; the government makes fun of us.”

Moldova is dependent on Russian energy – and last year the Kremlin cut its gas supply to the country by half

She presses her wide, pale face close to mine, wearing a blue woolen hat, and says, “There are people with four or five children who have nothing to eat.”

According to the president of Moldova, energy costs now consume more than 70 percent of household income.

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Ala informs me that they ate up half of her pension.

“When we elected this government, they promised to increase salaries and pensions, but we haven’t received a dime yet,” she says.

The pro-Russian Moldovan Sor party organized the protests on Sunday, which are being closely monitored by governments throughout Europe and beyond. The majority of protesters traveled by bus to the capital city of Chisinau, with the Sor party reportedly covering their costs.

Days before the summit, President Maia Sandu warned that Russia was planning to send military-trained saboteurs disguised as civilians into the country to overthrow her pro-Western government.

The accusation, according to Russia, is an attempt by Moldovan authorities to divert attention from their own social and economic failures.

Moldova is dependent on Russian gas due to its strategic location along the Ukraine border and the presence of a pro-Russian breakaway region.

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Last year, Moscow halved its supply to Moldova, putting pressure on the Chisinau government as it attempts to keep its Romanian- and Russian-speaking populations together.

In the fall of 2016, protests over the rising cost of gas and electricity began.

President Sandu stated in a public briefing on Monday that Russia had already attempted to destabilize the situation in Moldova through the energy crisis, which “was expected to cause major discontent among the population and lead to violent demonstrations.”

She stated that the current plan involved “diversionists with military training […] who would engage in violent action, attack government buildings, and even take hostages.”

In the past few days, 57 people from Russia-friendly nations, including a group of Serbian football fans and several boxers from Montenegro, were denied entry to Moldova following security checks.

This week, the airspace of Moldova was unexpectedly closed for several hours.

Rosian Vasiloi, the head of Moldova’s border police, told the BBC, “It is crystal clear that Russia is an aggressor state.” He stated that the threat has existed since February 24, when the Ukraine war began, but emphasized that it is “different now; it’s a mix of threats from within and without Moldova.”

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As long as Ukraine continues to fight and wins the war, he believes Moldova’s risks will be reduced.

“Moldova will fall if Ukraine falls,” he said. “But I’m not afraid.”

Since the beginning of the war, President Sandu’s administration has attempted to diversify Ukraine’s energy sources and wean the country off its reliance on Russian gas. However, attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure and the expense of importing electricity from Romania have made this difficult.

She has asserted that the alleged Russian plot would rely on “internal forces” such as the opposition Sor party and has demanded that the parliament pass stricter security laws.

Marina Tauber, general secretary of Sor and leader of today’s demonstration in front of parliament, asserts that her party is not opposed to the EU and seeks good relations with all parties.

However, some members of her party admit that they would welcome Russian intervention.

We meet party Councillor Iurie Berenchi in the Sor stronghold of Orhei, an hour’s drive north of the Moldovan capital, Chisinau.

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“We have no fear,” he told me. “If Russia wanted to take Moldova, they could do it in half a day.”

When asked if she would welcome this, Mr. Berenchi responds unequivocally in the affirmative.

The pro-Russian Sor party, according to Marina Tauber, desires good relations with all parties.

“In my opinion, yes,” he responded. We would be much better off with Russia than we are now.”

Many in Chisinau view closer ties with the West as a means of preserving Moldova’s independence and democracy at a crucial time. The party of President Sandu holds a solid majority in parliament.

On Sunday, however, the view from the crowd outside the parliament was different, and there is a risk that the pressure will exacerbate the divisions within Moldova’s diverse society.

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When Ala and her friends were asked if they believe Russia wants to infiltrate Moldova, as their president feared, the risk was evident.

They proclaim, “Yes, let them in!” “We desire their presence here. We desire to join Russia!”