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10 Apr, 2009 10:40

Who’s behind ‘peaceful’ Moldovans’ outrage?

A Romanian national involved in organizing riots in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, has been detained, says the country's Prosecutor General’s Office. Further investigations continue into who instigated the protests.

Meanwhile, Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin has asked the Constitutional court for a total recount of votes from the Parliamentary election.

According to him, a total recount would be the only way of releasing Moldova from its political dead-end.

He made a request on Friday on behalf of the Communist Party, which he heads. Protesters had accused the Party of being involved in the rigging of the election.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Chisinau has approved the opposition request to hold more demonstrations on Friday. But this time, Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanii has warned that if protesters turn violent, police will use force.

After Tuesday’s riots, life seems to have returned to normal in the Moldovan capital. But the outside of the parliament building reminds passers-by of exactly what happened two days ago.

Less than three days ago, it started as a regular working day at Chisinau’s parliament. But later on Tuesday, thousands of protesters stormed the building. Now it looks like an aftermath of a war zone, with shattered glass and burned furniture strewn everywhere.

Too much for a ‘peaceful nation’

The scenes of the Tuesday riots were shocking for the people of Moldova. This kind of violence had never been seen in its modern history.

“Moldova has always been a very peaceful nation, never aggressive,” said Vice Speaker of the Moldovan Parliament Maria Postoico. After her office was ransacked and half-burned by angry protesters, she had to try and recover things that were not stolen.

“Those who attacked parliament had no morals whatsoever; I hope they were not Moldovans. Moldovans could not have destroyed it,” she asserts.

The official reason for this unrest was the opposition’s reaction to Sunday's parliamentary vote. They contested the communists’ victory, accusing them of falsifications.

“Sunday's vote has been classified as fair by all the international observers who were present in the country,” said Grigory Petrenko, Communist party member.

“So it is now strange to hear accusations of election fraud coming from those who did not get a seat in the parliament."

Blaming the neighbor

There is still a lot of speculation as to why the protest started. Authorities believe that it was inspired from abroad – from neighboring Romania. Over 50 years ago, the two countries were a single state.

“Quite a big group of Romanians came to Chisinau to join the protests, that's including right wing radicals,” Petrenko said.

“During the riots, you could hear chants calling to unite with Romania. Romania is the only EU country now whose official definition of Moldova sounds like ‘a second Romanian state.'

The Moldovan government shut down the border with Romania, and expelled its ambassador along with several journalists. But the opposition claims it is an attempt to hide what they call a provocation.

“Somebody put the Romanian flag up on the President's palace,” said Vlado Filat, opposition party leader.

“If you look at the pictures however, you'll see that the people putting it up were helped by two police officers right next to them."

Cherchez la femme?

In another twist, the authorities accuse Natalia Morar, a journalist, for inciting a riot. Previously she had been expelled from Russia, as special services believed she posed a threat to national security. The Moldovan interior ministry said Natalia was arrested and charged with treason. But her husband Ilya Barabanov refuted that.

“Police tried to arrest Natalia at her apartment and searched it, but she wasn’t there,” he said.

“Some strange people continue to spy on her home, but she’s staying in a safe place until things cool down”.

While deliberations on what led to Tuesday’s events continue, rumors of mass protests to be held on Friday are circulating around the Moldovan capital. The opposition say it will not urge people to take to the streets, but activists of previous actions reportedly received unidentified text messages, calling them to protest on April 10. Some already expect tens of thousands will be there.