Moldova blames Romania for violent protests

Voronin declares Romania's ambassador to Moldova persona non grata, says he plans to introduce visas for Romanian citizens.

moldova protests 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
moldova protests 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Moldova's president accused neighboring Romania of backing violent anti-communist protesters who stormed his office and Parliament, leaving dozens injured and some 200 arrested. Vladimir Voronin's comments Wednesday raised tensions between the two countries, which are linked through language and history but which have followed diverging paths since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Romania looked West and joined the European Union in 2007, while Moldova's communist government has stronger ties with Russia. Riot police regained control of the Parliament and presidential office early Wednesday, after they were ransacked by protesters who claimed last weekend's parliamentary elections were rigged. "Romania is behind these protests and events in Moldova," Voronin said after meeting government officials, Radio Moldova reported. His Communist Party, which has been in power since 2001, won about 50 percent of the vote in the elections Sunday. Voronin declared Romania's ambassador to Moldova, Filip Teodorescu, persona non grata, and said he plans to introduce visas for Romanian citizens, Moldovan news agencies reported. Romanians and other European Union citizens have until now been able to enter Moldova without visas. In a statement, Romania's Foreign Ministry said it "categorically rejects accusations about its involvement" in the riots. "It is unacceptable for the Communist authorities to transfer responsibility for their internal problems to Romania and Romanian citizens," it said. Moldovan authorities are uneasy about what they see as growing Romanian influence in the country, which was part of Romania until 1940. About two-thirds of Moldovans are ethnic Romanians who speak the same language. The others are ethnic Russians and Ukrainians. The protests Tuesday also highlighted a generational gap in Moldova, where many young people look West but older generations support the Communists. The violence started after at least 10,000 mostly young protesters gathered outside Parliament, demanding new elections. Organizers of the demonstration, which started peacefully, used social messaging network Twitter to spread information about the protests. The president blamed pro-European opposition parties in his country for the violence, calling them "fascists (who) want to destroy democracy and independence in Moldova. Opposition parties denied the allegations. Vlad Filat who heads the Democratic Liberal Party said the Communists had provoked violence to "distract attention from the election fraud." The opposition claims that people voted more than once. Central Election Committee spokesman Iurie Ciocan said all parties who took part in the Sunday ballot will be allowed to see the electoral lists. Police arrested 193 people, including eight minors, on charges of "hooliganism and robbery" following the protests, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Ala Meleca said. She said 96 police had been injured in the unrest. Demonstrations continued on Wednesday. At least 3,000 protesters gathered outside the government headquarters in Chisinau and dozens more outside Parliament. International observers said Moldova's election was fair, but Chisinau Mayor Dorin Chirtoaca, deputy leader of the opposition Liberal Party, said many people voted more than once. Iurie Ciocan, an election official, said the opposition's claims about irregularities would be examined Wednesday, Chisinau TV station Pro-TV reported.