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25th Jun 2022

Moldova accuses Romania of staging riots

  • Communist president Vladimir Voronin accused EU member Romania of staging the demonstrations (Photo: European Commission)

Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin has blamed EU neighbour Romania for staging post-election riots and announced he would expel Bucharest's ambassador and reintroduce visas for Romanians.

Some 2,000 protesters were gathering for the third day on Wednesday (8 April) in Chisinau, after police took over the control of the parliament and presidential palace a night before.

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Interior ministry spokeswoman Ala Meleca said 193 people, including eight minors, had been detained overnight on charges of looting, robbery, hooliganism and affray. One woman died and some 100 people were injured in the clashes.

"Romania is involved in everything that has happened here," the country's Communist President Vladimir Voronin said on Wednesday.

Mr Voronin decided to expel the Romanian ambassador and reintroduce mandatory visas for his neighbours, despite a visa facilitation agreement with the EU. Under the agreement, Chisinau lifted visas for all EU member states at the end of 2007, including for the EU's newest members Romania and Bulgaria.

Moldovan authorities also interrupted the broadcasting of Romanian TV channels on cable networks, which were the only ones reporting live on the events.

The Romanian ministry of foreign affairs declined to comment. But minister Cristian Diaconescu cancelled his visit to Azerbaijan which was scheduled for Wednesday.

Some two thirds of Moldovans are of Romanian origin, speaking almost the same language. Most of Moldova's territory used to belong to Romania before the Soviet Union carved it out.

Russian support for the current government

Russian interests are still very much present, as the separatist region of Transnistria, in Moldova's eastern part bordering Ukraine, is home to some 2,000 Russian troops and military equipment.

Russia's foreign ministry, in a statement on Wednesday, said the riots were a plot aimed at undermining Moldova's sovereignty and pointed the finger to forces which favour a reunion with Romania.

"Judging by the slogans shouted in the squares, plenty of Romanian flags in the hands of organisers of these outrages, their aim is to discredit the achievements in strengthening the sovereignty of Moldova," it said in a statement.

"The Russian foreign ministry hopes that common sense will prevail, public and constitutional order will be restored in the next few days and the choice of the Moldovan citizens will be confirmed by all politically responsible forces."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who had earlier congratulated Mr Voronin on his party's election win, called for a speedy and calm resolution of the crisis.

The EU also called on an immediate halt of violence and respect for democratic processes.

"I remind all parties that any complaint in connection to last Sunday's election should be addressed through the existing channels," EU commissioner for external relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement.

The Moldovan government rejected calls for the Sunday votes to be recounted. The election saw the Communist Party win by 50 percent, getting enough parliamentary seats to nominate a Communist president to succeed Mr Voronin, who may not stand for a third mandate.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the calls for a recount were "unfounded."

Disappointing EU reaction

Some representatives of Moldovan civil society were disappointed at the EU's reaction and the OSCE judgement that the Sunday elections were free and fair.

"The declarations of OSCE observers and EU officials calling the elections fair proved that the EU feels nausea about the Republic of Moldova. These statements untied the hands of the Voronin regime," Oazu Nantoi from the Institute for Public Policy, a Chisinau-based think-tank, told EUobserver.

He said that the elections were grossly manipulated by the state institutions, who only serve the Communist party and its leader.

Mr Nantoi, who participated in the demonstrations from the first day on, said that on Monday, people gathered spontaneously, protesting peacefully about the Communist leadership.

"It was a flash-mob of some 15,000 youngsters, some were carrying their kids on their shoulders. There was no political leader trying to manipulate or confiscate the demonstration," he said about the so-called "Twitter Revolution," in reference to the internet-based networking tool, Twitter, used to publicise details of the gathering.

On Tuesday, however, violence broke out and even if the Communist party did not provoke the violence, it did everything for the police not to intervene, he said.

"They wanted violence to last a whole day, the parliament and presidency building to be set on fire, for vandalism to be presented as the opposition's only capability," Mr Nantoi said, warning that from now on, democracy is set to degrade even further, referring to the measures taken against Romania.

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