Tens of thousands stream to Chisinau demanding resignation of president and early elections over disappearance of $1bn.
Moldovan opposition protesters pitched around 100 tents in the centre of the capital Chisinau, demanding the resignation of the president and snap elections after a big weekend demonstration.
The tents went up in the capital’ central square on Monday after tens of thousands of Moldovans poured onto the streets on Sunday to protest against corruption and fraud in the ex-Soviet country, in the largest such rally of recent years.
Demonstrators said they were digging in for the long haul in the “Dignity and Justice” protest camp as they declared an indefinite protest near the seat of government.
“There will be between 100 and 300 of our supporters on the square at all times,” Vasile Nastase, one of the organisers, told AFP news agency.
“They will live in the Dignity and Justice tent camp until the authorities fulfil our demands in full,” said Nastase, a member of a pro-Western movement called DA, which organised the protests.
“Fraud of the century”
The protests in the impoverished country of some 3.5 million people have been triggered by an eyebrow-raising scam that saw $1.1 bln – roughly 10 percent of Moldova’s GDP – mysteriously exit the country.
The scam, uncovered early this year, was dubbed the “fraud of the century” and came as a devastating blow to Europe’s poorest country, triggering the devaluation of the national currency, the leu, and stoking inflation.
Among the demonstrators’ demands are the resignation of President Nicolae Timofti, early parliamentary polls and the dismissal of top officials at the central bank and the prosecutor-general’s office.
Last year Moldova, which lies between Ukraine and Romania, signed an association agreement taking it closer to European Union (EU) membership despite opposition from Russia.
Protesters accuse the country’s leaders of paying lip service to Western integration, while using positions of power to enrich themselves.
Disagreement over whether to sign a similar agreement with the EU sparked the crisis in neighbouring Ukraine, where Russia is accused of fuelling the bloody separatist conflict in the east.
Russia maintains thousands of troops in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniestr, bordering Ukraine, and has for years provided money to prop up the impoverished region that is home to some 180,000 Russian nationals.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said on Monday the Kremlin was monitoring the protests in Moldova.