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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Asks Brussels To Protect Moldova

ReutersA security officer entering the parliament building painted with anti-communists signs in Chisinau on Thursday.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asked the European Union and Romania on Thursday to guarantee the sovereignty of Moldova, where riots have swept the capital and prompted a crackdown on opposition.

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin has accused neighboring Romania of stoking a coup attempt after demonstrators ransacked the parliament during post-election protests Tuesday and waved EU and Romanian flags from his offices.

Lavrov said Russia was "deeply disturbed" by the protest flags and slogans because they showed that the demonstrators "were obsessed with the idea of destroying Moldovan statehood."

Most of present-day Moldova, Europe's poorest country, was part of Romania until Stalin annexed it to the Soviet Union in 1940. It won independence when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

"We hope that the EU and the Romanian leadership, which publicly condemned the violence, will take action to ensure that Romanian flags and Romanian slogans are not used as the cover for undermining Moldovan statehood," Lavrov told RIA-Novosti.

Wary of getting embroiled in a new dispute with Moscow, the EU's executive commission said the bloc fully recognized Moldovan sovereignty.

"While understanding the complexity of the Moldovan-Romanian relations, we call on the government of Moldova to resume normal relations with Romania," the foreign ministers of France and the Czech Republic and Sweden said in a joint statement. The three countries are the EU's previous, current and next presidents.

The EU urged Moldova to drop punitive measures that it took against Romania and respect constitutional freedoms after at least 193 people were arrested in Tuesday's riots.

Ivan Sekretarev / AP
Foreign ambassadors and journalists visiting the parliament on Thursday.
Moldova has imposed a visa regime on Romania, expelled its ambassador and denied entry to more than 19 Romanian journalists. It says the measures are needed because Romania is threatening its sovereignty, a charge that Bucharest dismisses.

"In the past days, Chisinau has taken arbitrary and discriminatory measures against Romanian citizens," Romanian Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu told reporters, describing the visa imposition as "reckless."

Among those detained in Chisinau was Natalya Morar, a Moldovan citizen and reporter for Moscow-based New Times magazine who was expelled from Russia last year after writing about alleged Kremlin corruption.

Prosecutor General Valeriu Gurbulea told Itar-Tass on Thursday that she had been charged with "calls for organizing and staging mass disturbances."

The suspected mastermind of the violent protests, Moldovan businessman Gabriel Stati, has been detained in Ukraine, and Moldovan prosecutors have asked for his extradition, Itar-Tass reported. Stati's father is the owner of the ASCOM company, which produces gas and oil in Kazakhstan and a number of African countries, the report said.

Correspondents said Moldova has denied entry to more than 19 Romanian journalists, despite a demand from the Czech EU presidency for the "proper respect for freedom of the media and freedom of expression."

The streets of Chisinau were quiet on Thursday morning as the opposition parties, shaken by the scale of Tuesday's violence, pondered their next move.

Opposition leaders have tried to distance themselves from the violence. They said people had been getting messages on their mobile phones and via the Internet about a new protest on Friday that they said they had nothing to do with.

Voronin's Communist Party won the elections with 49.5 percent.

The Liberal party, which won 12.75 percent of the vote in the disputed parliamentary election, called on the European Union to send a special mission to investigate the riots.

(Reuters, MT)