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Oleg Kozlovsky Headshot

West Must Speak up for Moldova

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Some countries are just more lucky than others. Moldova wasn't lucky enough to be known in America or Western Europe. Indeed, it's a small East-European ex-Soviet country, poorest on the continent, and there's little of interest about it. Except maybe for the fact that Moldova is the only place in the world where Communists keep winning West-approved elections. So they did, or claim to have done, at general elections last Sunday.

What followed the voting was completely unexpected both by the government and the opposition. About 10,000 protesters, mostly students, held a protest in Chisinau on Monday again what they called fraudulent elections. The young people, who organized themselves via Facebook, Twitter and SMS, demanded freedom of press, creation of a broad opposition coalition and new elections. The protest was peaceful and ended same evening.

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The other day more young people came to protest and the situation went out of control. Police were taken by surprise as 30,000-strong crowd stormed the Parliament and President's Residence. Organizers, both civil groups and opposition parties, couldn't control their supporters and the demonstration turned into a riot. Hooligans, who were reportedly a minority of the protesters, vandalized and looted official buildings and even put the Parliament building on fire. Riot police arrived at the site in the night and arrested every young person they found. It looks like the police allowed the protests become violent intentionally or even infiltrated them with provocateurs in order to have an excuse for harsh action.

The government is now in control of Chisinau and accuses the opposition of attempting a coup. Communist President Vladimir Voronin may now use the protests to crack down on the civil and political activists and the arrests are already said to have begun. Organizers of the Monday action, like youth leader Natalia Morar, deny the accusations and explain that they tried to prevent violence. However, the government doesn't seem to be listening. If the crackdown continues, the whole democratic opposition in Moldova may be beheaded and the already threatened democracy effectively destroyed.

Western leaders are largely ignoring the dramatic events in Chisinau. Will they allow the pro-European democratic forces in Moldova to be crushed by the Communist regime? Will they be just as short-sighted as they were when Lukashenko destroyed the opposition in Belarus or when Putin established his "sovereign democracy" rule in Russia?

American and European leaders should speak up in support of peaceful solution in Moldova and call both sides to refrain from violence. They should offer their mediation between the government and the opposition. Voronin has already agreed to such negotiations, the opposition will surely do as well. Otherwise, another "last dictatorship in Europe" is going to appear in this unlucky country.