Moldova claims Romania plotted attempted coup


Moldovans shout slogans at a rally near a government building in Chisinau. Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin accused neighbouring Romania of involvement in the anti-Communist riots in the capital. Photograph: Viktor Crachev/AFP/Getty Images

Moldova yesterday blamed its EU neighbour Romania for violent protests in which hundreds of anti-Communist demonstrators stormed the country's parliament in a protest dubbed the Twitter revolution.

Moldova's president Vladimir Voronin announced he was expelling Romania's ambassador and introducing a new visa regime for Romanians. He also said he was closing the border with Romania, a Nato member. Romania's foreign ministry described the moves as a "provocation."

The Communist president's attempt to blame Romania for the riots threatens to undermine a partnership deal between the EU and six ex-Soviet republics. The EU is due to invite Moldova - with Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia - to a summit in Prague on 7 May.

Yesterday Voronin said more than 270 people were injured in Tuesday's protests, which saw demonstrators burn the parliament building and president's office. About 10,000 students gathered in the capital Chisinau to denounce the results of Sunday's election, which saw the Communists returned to power.

The spontaneous rally appears to have taken both the authorities and the country's opposition leaders by surprise. A 25-year-old Moldovan journalist, Natalia Morar, organised a flashmob on Monday outside the parliament using social networking technology including Twitter. On her Live Journal blog yesterday, Morar said she had organised a peaceful protest and was not responsible for any violence.

A crowd gathered again near the parliament building last night, demanding the release of protesters arrested on Tuesday and shouting: "Freedom". The opposition has dismissed Sunday's poll as fraudulent.

Yesterday, however, Voronin was uncompromising. He said the organisers of Tuesday's protests would be "vigorously punished" and said the ongoing protests "had nothing to do with democracy". "When the flag of Romania was raised on state buildings, the attempts of the opposition to carry out a coup became clear," he said. "We will not allow this."

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Moldova claims Romania plotted attempted coup

This article was first published on at 00.01 BST on Thursday 9 April 2009. It appeared in the Guardian on Thursday 9 April 2009 on p22 of the International section. It was last updated at 10.25 BST on Thursday 9 April 2009.

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