Violence escalates in Moldovan capital

Moldova's leader has appealed to the world community for help in ending the unrest in the country after thousands took to the streets of the capital, Chisinau, to protest the results of Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

After the vote resulted in victory for the country’s Communist Party more than 10,000 people, according to various reports, have taken to the streets of Chisinau.

The crowds were comprised of supporters of Moldovan opposition movements, only three of which made it into the parliament, winning fewer than half of the seats.

Protesters apparently did not initially plan for violent confrontations, and police did not interfere with protesters who blocked traffic on Chisinau’s central road. However, police eventually fired tear gas at the crowd.

“We decided to protest against the results of the election. It's impossible that every second person in Moldova voted for the communists. However, we believe the riots were a provocation and we are trying to reconcile the crowd. Leaders of all opposition parties are at the scene,” said Larisa Manole from the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova.

The participants of the rally, waving Romanian and European Union flags, demanded that Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin appear before the crowds to announce his resignation.

Among the slogans used by the protesters were: “Down with Communism!," “We want freedom,” and “We are against falsification!”

The situation was heating up and protesters – mainly students – took over and looted the presidential palace and the parliament building.

As a result of the violence, about one hundred people were treated in hospitals and one protester is feared dead.


Protesters storm the presidential building in central Chisinau on April 7, 2009 (AFP Photo / Vadim Denisov)

Also, access to television and Internet were cut in the capital and mobile communication was also down.

Police have been taking measures to prevent opposition supporters from entering Chisinau, RIA Novosti reported based upon reports from an unnamed source in Moldova’s Interior Ministry.

As night descended on the city, authorities slowly brought the situation under control.

Storm units of Moldovan police over-ran positions in the parliament and presidential offices and the fire in the parliament building was extinguished.

After 2 am Moscow time additional police forces had been stationed in the capital centre.

Security measures were stepped up in the central election commission and government building, the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Justice, as well as the national television headquarters, according to the Interfax news agency.

Reports indicate that negotiations between the opposition and authorities have not yet found a solution to the unrest.

Moldova's central election committee has already promised to recount election votes within the next ten days, but the opposition is calling for a new election.

‘Coup d’etat attempt’

President Voronin has called the protests a ‘bacchanalia’.

“Contesting election results is only a pretext. I have discussed the situation with the secretary of the Central Election Commission. There are no final results yet. It’s strange that the organizers of this bacchanalia are in such a hurry,” Voronin said at the emergency government meeting.

Moldova's leader has appealed to the international community to help resolve the situation without the use of force.


Central Chisinau on April 7, 2009 (AFP Photo / Vadim Denisov)
Earlier, the head of the presidential administration, Mark Tkachuk, gave RT his thoughts concerning the situation:

“Street riots have been initiated by a group formed by the leaders of the opposition parties which lost the election – that is, those who either failed to make it into parliament, or won a very limited number of deputies,” he said.

“Masses of shaven-headed youths have stormed into the Parliament. Most of the slogans they are chanting are anti-Moldovan and are mostly concerned with the country's unification with Romania. There are Romanian flags everywhere. All this can be classified as an attempt to launch a street riot coup d’etat,” he added.

International reaction

Javier Solana, the EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, has urged Moldovan protesters to avoid violence.

He said that everyone must abstain from provocations and described the attacks on government buildings as ‘impermissible’.

Further, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has called for “the earliest peaceful settlement of the situation and the restoration of law and order in Moldova.”

The Kremlin press office said Medvedev had a phone conversation with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on Tuesday, who brought Medvedev up to date on the situation in Chisinau.

The events in Moldova have become the focus for all media outlets in neighboring Romania. One of the leading Romanian news channels has described the protests as “a true revolution”, reports the Itar-Tass news agency.

Romanian authorities say they are not going to interfere in the situation, but call for an end to the violence and riots. However, they criticized Moldovan authorities for an absence of dialogue and mutual understanding with the opposition.

Meanwhile, the Moldovan ambassador to Romania has been summoned home for consultations.

Election results

As for the results of the vote that caused the disturbances, the Moldovan Communist Party won 49.96% of the votes, while the Liberal Party got 12.78%, the Liberal Democratic Party – 12.26%, and the Our Moldova alliance – 9.81%, according to preliminary reports.

The election on Sunday was monitored by 3,000 international observers, including the OSCE and European parliament, who acknowledged both its transparency and legitimacy.

The Council of Europe also says it considers the election results to be valid.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry reacted to the April 5 parliamentary election, calling it “another step towards the strengthening of democratic norms and traditions in the country.”