Dozens of arrests in anti-government protests in Moldova


Some 4,500 people disapproving of the high prices gathered in the capital Chisinau to protest against President Maia Sandu.

Police in Moldova have arrested more than 50 people as thousands gathered to protest pro-European president Maia Sandu.

Some 4,500 demonstrators, decrying high prices, gathered in the capital Chisinau on Sunday, but police in riot gear set up roadblocks with buses to restrict them to a district far from government buildings.

Officials said 54 people were detained for public order violations. Several busloads of protesters were stopped from entering the capital.

The main force behind the protests is opposition politician Ilan Shor, an exiled businessman convicted of fraud in connection with a $1 billion banking scandal.

“Why do Moldova’s Western partners support Maia Sandu but turn a blind eye when people are kept away from the government to express their needs,” Marina Tauber, head of Shor’s party, told the rally. “Can you see this in another European country?”

Sandu administration chief Andrei Spinu denounced Sunday’s rally as “not a protest. This was the umpteenth attempt by Russia to destabilize the situation in Moldova.”

Officials had previously warned of possible organized disorder. Clashes broke out at the protest in Chisinau as protesters gathered in front of the parliament and tried to reach the government seat a few hundred meters away, but police stopped them.

The protest slogan was “We ask the government to pay our bills”.

Participants spoke of the high cost of living and blamed the government and President Sandu for not doing enough to help them or not listening to their complaints.

People shouted: “Down with the dictatorship” and “Down with Maia Sandu”.

Moldovan police chief Viorel Cernauteanu previously told reporters that officers had staged a series of raids and detained seven people on suspicion of causing serious disturbances at demonstrations.

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

The organizers accused Sandu of trying to draw Moldova into the war in Ukraine.

The meeting followed weeks of conflicting warnings of impending trouble in Moldova, where rockets have repeatedly landed near its border with Ukraine during Russia’s years-long invasion of its neighbour.

Moldova last month accused Russia of plotting to overthrow Sandu, while the United States pledged to support its government against destabilization.

The White House on Friday accused Russia of trying to destabilize the Romanian-speaking country of 2.6 million people bordering Ukraine in order to install a pro-Russian government.

The US said it had intensified information sharing with Moldovan leaders “so they can investigate further” and “thwart Russian plans”.

Formerly part of the Russian sphere of influence, Moldova is now governed by authorities with a strong focus on European integration.

However, Chisinau has to do with the separatist region of Transnistria, where authorities on Thursday called on the United Nations to investigate a plan – attributed to Kiev – to attack several top officials.

Ukraine’s SBU security service immediately denounced the allegations as a “provocation orchestrated by the Kremlin”.

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