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Anti-govt protests in Moldova as President speaks to world leaders in Munich

President Maia Sandu of Moldova spoke at the Munich Security Conference of the need to include her country in Europe’s security architecture. But pro-Russian opposition inside Moldova disagrees and has organized a protest in the country’s capital calling for Sandu to resign.

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“Looking at what Russia does to Ukraine today, it’s clear that neutrality cannot defend us. Neutrality can defend only when the other countries respect it,” said Moldovan President Maia Sandu addressing the leaders assembled at the Munich Security Conference.

But she added that she was aware and acknowledged that the public sentiment in the former Soviet Republic wedged between Romania and Ukraine at the time is against closer ties with the West.

“And I think the Russian propaganda is to a big extent to be blamed for that,” Sandu said.

She listed propaganda, cyberattacks, and false bomb threats as some of the means employed to destabilize the situation in Moldova and undermine democracy.

She stressed that while Moldova is “grateful to NATO” for a long-lasting partnership, the country needs projects that can immediately boost its defenses.

Her pleas were supported by the Foreign Minister of Romania, Bogdan Aurescu, who appealed to fellow EU and NATO members assembled at Munich to help defend Moldova.

Earlier in the week, Sandu asked the Moldovan Parliament to expand the powers of security services, warning that Russia has plans to conduct a coup d’etat which include attacks on government buildings and the taking of hostages.

Protests in Moldovan capital

Indeed, several thousand people gathered on Sunday in front of the Moldovan Parliament in Chisinau. The protest was organized by the People’s Movement, which also includes the ŞOR Party (formally: Socio-Political Movement “Equality”) of the pro-Russian oligarch Ilan Șor, who is under international investigation and put on the sanctions list by the United Kingdom and the United States. The fringe populist and pro-Russian ŞOR Party holds six seats in the country’s 101-seat unicameral parliament.

A protest by the Moldovan opposition began in Chisinau.

The protesters demand the resignation of President Maia Sandu.

— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) February 19, 2023

The Moldovan police found a violation of what was stated in the preliminary statement regarding the location of the meeting after the crows moved from in front of the parliament to the “Maria Biesu” Opera and Ballet Theater.

At the head of the protesters are ŞOR deputy Marina Tauber, under judicial control, Reghina Apostolova, also a member of the ŞOR party, the president of Orhei district, Dinu Ţurcanu, the mayor of Orhei municipality, Pavel Verejanu.

The protesters demand that the government pay the citizens’ bills in full for the months of December-February. They chant “Down with the government” and “Down with the dictatorship”. The participants have been reportedly mass-bussed in. Photos from the protests suggest that the protest is made up largely of seniors.

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Moldova has recently undergone a change of government after the previous Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilița handed in her resignation. A new government has been since sworn in. In spite of the change of the Prime Minister, the cabinet is largely composed of the same ministers. Sandu’s Party of Action and Solidarity remains in power.

A counter-demonstration gathered in front of the Stephen the Great Monument in the center of Chisinau in front of the Parliament, where the ŞOR protest was originally supposed to take place. The counter-protesters came with flags of Romania, Moldova’s western neighbor sharing close linguistic, cultural, and historical bonds, as well as with NATO flags.

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Moldova faced similar street protests in the autumn of last year. A media investigation showed that pro-Russian forces from the Republic of Moldova were behind these protests, including the internationally wanted Ilan Şor.

Moreover, on Saturday, the authorities carried out over 20 searches and detained eight people in an illegal financing case related to Ilan Şor’s party.

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