Moscow warns EU over Moldova

Russia asked the European Union and Romania yesterday to guarantee the sovereignty of its ally Moldova, where riots have swept the capital and prompted a crackdown on the pro-Western opposition.

Moldova’s veteran Communist President, Vladimir Voronin, accused neighbouring Romania of stoking a coup attempt after demonstrators ransacked parliament during post-election protests two days ago and waved EU and Romanian flags from his offices. 

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

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.

Located on the EU’s border but within the former Soviet space, Moldova has the potential to inflame EU-Russian relations, which were already upset by last August’s Russia-Georgia war and the disruption to Russian gas flows to Europe at the start of this year.

The European Commission said the bloc recognised 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, the Czech Republic and Sweden said in a joint statement.

In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the flags and slogans at Tuesday’s riots in the capital, Chisinau, because they showed the demonstrators “were obsessed with the idea of destroying Moldovan statehood”. “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,” Mr Lavrov told the state-run RIA news agency.

Mr Voronin says Romania wants to seize control of his mainly rural country of four million people. He faces a growing economic crisis as thousands of Moldovans working abroad lose their jobs in the global economic crisis.

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

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