Thousands of protesters gathered massed outside Moldova’s government on Sunday demanding the resignation of pro-Western President Maia Sandu, blaming her government for record inflation and fuel prices.
It was the largest protest in the former Soviet state since Sandu was elected in 2020, promising to clamp down on corruption and move the country into a Western orbit.
Reuters reported the crowd was about 20,000, while organizers said it was twice that. Police put it at 6,500.
Prices have rocketed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Moldova has cut its growth estimate to zero for 2022, as inflation soared to 34.3%.
Moldova buys its gas from Russian gas giant Gazprom under a contract drawn up last year and prices have soared this year.
Neighboring Romania has promised to help Moldova with gas supplies this winter.
Protesters accused Sandu of failing to negotiate cheaper gas prices with Moscow. Some put up tents outside government headquarters and vowed to remain in place until the president resigns and calls early elections.
Energy prices have increased by 29% in September after an almost 50% surge in August.
In her bid to fight graft, Moldova’s prosecutor general has been removed and its former president, who was close to Moscow, placed under house arrest since Sandu came to power.
Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said this month that Moldova’s economy was expected to post growth of 1.5% next year.