Thousands took to the streets in Chisinau on Sunday demanding that the Moldovan government fully covers the costs of winter energy bills, and urging lawmakers “not involve the country in war.”

Opponents of the pro-Western President Maia Sandu have repeatedly called for her to step down, arguing that Russia should be Moldova’s number one partner.

Local authorities say the demonstrators were coordinated by the pro-Russian oligarchs Vladimir Plahotniuc and Ilan Shor, who are wanted internationally for corruption charges.

Sunday’s protest was one of several held in recent weeks, organised by a group calling itself ‘Movement for the People’, which is backed by Moldova’s Russia-friendly Shor Party, which holds six seats in the country’s 101-seat legislature.

The United States has accused Russia of wanting to destabilise the Republic of Moldova in order to overthrow the pro-European government in Chisinau.

Moldovan riot police form a line to prevent people from leaving a designated area during a protest in Chisinau, Moldova, Sunday, March 12, 2023Aurel Obreja/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

Moldovan police said on Sunday they have foiled a plot by groups of Russia-backed actors who were promised €9,000 to organise “mass disorder” during the protest. Seven people were detained.

The head of Moldova’s police, Viorel Cernauteanu, said in a news conference that an undercover agent had infiltrated groups of “diversionists,” some Russian citizens, who had been promised $10,000 to organise “mass disorder” to destabilize Moldova during a protest in the capital, Chisinau. Seven people were detained, he said.

‘Destabilisation measures’

Police said that four bomb threats on Sunday, including one at the capital’s international airport, had been registered, which they called “an ongoing part of the destabilisation measures” against Moldova, a former Soviet republic with a population of about 2.6 million.

Moldova’s border police also said Sunday that 182 foreign nationals in the last week have been denied entry into Moldova, including a “possible representative” of Russia’s Wagner Group, the private military company that is fighting in Ukraine, which neighbours Moldova.

The police announcement Sunday comes just days after US intelligence officials said they have determined that actors with ties to Russian intelligence are planning to use protests in Moldova, a European Union candidate since last June, as a basis to foment an insurrection against the country’s government.

On Saturday, Moldova’s national anti-corruption agency said that it has seized more than €220,000 during searches in a case of alleged illegal party financing of the Shor Party by an organized criminal group.

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