Thousands of people marched through Moldova's capital on Sunday demanding help with the cost of living crisis. Many were supporters of a party backed by an oligarch who has been sanctioned by the UK for pro-Russian activities.
Several thousand protesters rallied in Moldova’s capital on Sunday to demand the country's new pro-Western government fully cover citizens' winter heating bills amid a cost-of-living crisis and skyrocketing inflation.
The protest was organised by a recently formed group called Movement for the People and supported by members of Moldova’s Russia-friendly Shor Party, which holds six seats in the former Soviet republic’s 101-seat legislature.
Some of the demonstrators who converged on Chisinau called for the resignation of the country's president, chanting “Down with Maia Sandu!”
Others held placards with the faces of some Moldova’s leaders and politicians placed next to photographs of large homes and fancy cars.
"They have millions. We are dying of hunger,” they said.
Dozens of pro-government protesters also gathered nearby to show support for Maia Sandu's government.
"They all like euros and money, they all like good roads but they’re supporting Shor!", said one woman.
Sandu on February 13 outlined what she claimed was an alleged plot by Moscow to overthrow the government in order to put the nation “at the disposal of Russia,” and to derail it from its course to one day join the European Union.
“Through violent actions, masked under protests of the so-called opposition, the change of power in Chisinau would be forced,” she said. “In carrying out the plan, the authors rely on several internal forces, but especially on criminal groups such as the Shor formation and all of its derivatives."
Russia strongly denied her claims.
A series of anti-government protests initiated by the Shor Party rocked Moldova during last autumn as a severe energy crisis gripped the country after Russia dramatically reduced natural gas supplies.
Around the same time, Moldova’s government asked the country’s Constitutional Court to declare the Shor Party illegal.
The country's anti-corruption prosecutors’ office alleged the protests were partly financed with Russian money.
The Shor Party on Sunday accused the authorities of mobilising thousands of police “to thwart the demonstration and stop people from entering” the capital.
The Shor Party’s leader, Ilan Shor, is a Moldovan oligarch currently in exile in Israel.
He was recently named on a US State Department sanctions list as working for Russian interests.