Thousands took to the streets of Chisinau on Sunday, demanding that the Moldovan government fully cover the cost of winter energy bills and calling on lawmakers to “not involve the country in war”.

Opponents of pro-Western President Maia Sandu have repeatedly called for her to step down, arguing that Russia should be Moldova’s main partner.

Local authorities say the protesters were coordinated by pro-Russian oligarchs Vladimir Plahotniuc and Ilan Shor, who are wanted internationally on corruption charges.

Sunday’s protest was one of several held in recent weeks, organized by a group calling itself “Movement for the People”, which is backed by Moldova’s pro-Russian Shor Party, which holds six seats in the country’s 101-member legislature.

The US has accused Russia of wanting to destabilize the Republic of Moldova in order to topple the pro-European government in Chisinau.

Moldovan police said on Sunday they had foiled a plot by groups of Russian-backed actors who were promised 9,000 euros to organize “mass words” during the protest. Seven people were arrested.

The head of Moldova’s police, Viorel Cernauteanu, told a news conference that an undercover agent had infiltrated groups of “diversionists”, some Russian nationals, who had been promised $10,000 to organize “mass movements” to destabilize Moldova during a protest in the capital. , Chisinau. Seven people were arrested, he said.

“Destabilization Measures”

Police said four bomb threats on Sunday, including one at the capital’s international airport, had been recorded, which they called “an ongoing part of destabilization measures” against Moldova, a former Soviet republic with a population of about 2.6 million.

Moldova’s border police also said Sunday that over the past week, 182 foreign nationals have been denied entry to Moldova, including a “possible representative” of Russia’s Wagner Group, the private military company fighting in Ukraine, which borders Moldova.

The police announcement on Sunday comes just days after US intelligence officials said they had determined that actors linked to Russian intelligence were planning to use protests in Moldova, an EU candidate since last June, as a basis to incite an uprising against the country’s government .

On Saturday, Moldova’s national anti-corruption agency said it has seized more than 220,000 euros during house searches in a case of alleged illegal party funding of the Shor party by an organized criminal group.