CHISNAU, Moldova: Thousands of people in Moldova protested against high inflation and fuel prices, as well as demanded the resignation of pro-Western President Maia Sandu and her government.
The protest was the largest in the small ex-Soviet state since Sandu was elected in 2020, after promising to root out corruption and secure membership of the European Union (EU), which has provided the country with large amounts of aid.
The crowd in the city's main square numbered some 20,000, although opposition organizers said the number was double this estimate, while police estimated only 6,500.
"Moldova is now in clinical death, to which the current authorities have brought it," said Dinu Turcanu, a politician from the opposition party of Ilan Shor, an exiled businessman convicted of fraud in connection with a $1 billion bank scandal.
Under a contract signed last year, Moldova buys its gas from Russian gas giant Gazprom, and due to rising energy prices, which increased by 29 percent in September after surging almost 50 percent in August, the population of 3.5 million are enduring serious economic difficulties.
Moldova's prosecutor-general has been removed and its former president, who was close to Moscow, was placed under house arrest since Sandu became president.
Many protesters, who accused Sandu of failing to negotiate a more reasonable gas price with Moscow, set up a tent camp outside the government building and vowed to stay until Sandu resigns and calls early elections.
Affected by record high inflation at 34.3 percent, and interest rates at 21.5 percent, Moldova cut its growth estimate to zero for 2022. However, this month, Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said the country's economy was expected to post moderate growth of 1.5 percent in 2023.