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article imageTens of thousands rally to demand Moldova president resign

By AFP     Sep 6, 2015 in World

Tens of thousands of Moldavans rallied in the capital Chisinau on Sunday to demand the resignation of President Nicolae Timofti and the election of a new head of state, organisers said.

The demonstration was sparked by public anger over a $1 billion banking scandal which has shaken the former Soviet country, one of the poorest countries in Europe.

"We will stay here until our demands are fully met," shouted lawyer Andrei Nastase, one of those who organised the rally.

Organisers said between 50,000 and 100,000 demonstrators had gathered in Chisinau's central square to demand Timofti's resignation and a plebiscite to chose a new head of state, who is currently elected by parliament.

They also called for the resignation of top officials at Moldova's central bank and the attorney general's office, demanding the government pursue integration efforts with Europe.

Leaders of the demonstration presented their demands to Moldova's new pro-European premier, Valeriu Strelet, who took up the post at the end July pledging to crack down on corruption.

Elsewhere, activists from the so-called "Red bloc" -- the radical leftwing "Our Home is Moldova" party -- tried to break into the prosecutor general's office, provoking clashes with the police, who arrested several people.

Last year, Moldova, which lies between Ukraine and Romania, signed an association agreement taking it closer to European Union membership despite opposition from former Soviet master Russia.

Moscow promptly slapped a ban on Moldova's fruit imports in apparent retaliation for its shift towards the West.

Disagreement over a similar pact sparked the current crisis in neighbouring Ukraine, where Russia has been accused of fuelling a bloody separatist conflict in the east.

Russia maintains thousands of troops in Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniestr, and has for years provided money to prop up the impoverished region of 500,000 people, which is home to some 180,000 Russian nationals.

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