A massive crowd of protesters marched through the center of Chisinau, demanding the resignation of President Maia Sandu.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Moldova’s capital Chisinau on Sunday to protest the high cost of living and the policies of the government as well as President Maia Sandu. The protests were organized by the opposition Shor Party.

A massive crowd of people marched through the city center, demanding the resignation of Sandu and the cabinet and calling for early presidential and parliamentary elections.

The protesters criticized the government’s austerity policies, saying the cabinet is just trying to save money without doing anything to improve people’s lives.

The opposition demands that the government provide financial assistance to citizens to alleviate the burden of rising energy and gas prices, which have increased almost sevenfold since last year, according to the media.

As many as 60,000 people took part in the protest, according to Dinu Turcanu, one of the organizers, who is also a member of the Shor Party and head of Moldova’s Orhei region. Between 6,000 and 9,000 people from various regions were unable to attend because police blocked their buses on roads leading to Chisinau, Turcanu said.

Police put the total number of protesters at between 5,000 and 6,000.

The Moldovan authorities accused the opposition of “financing” protests by paying people to participate. Shor Party leader Ilan Shor has been charged with stealing $1 billion from the nation’s banking system.

Shor was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on this charge in 2017, but appealed the decision and fled to Israel. On Sunday, he delivered a speech at the rally via video link, in which he demanded Sandu’s resignation and lower energy prices.

Moldova has faced massive protests for weeks. Sunday’s demonstration was the fourth since September 18. The protesters set up a huge camp near the parliament building and declared a “indefinite protest”.

The developments come as Europe struggles to deal with the ongoing energy crisis, in part caused by the EU’s campaign to phase out Russian energy exports. In June, Moldova received EU candidate status.

Gasoline prices in Europe rose earlier this year after Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in late February. After the EU and other Western countries imposed sweeping sanctions on Moscow and began cutting off Russian energy supplies, gas prices hit record highs, causing overall inflation on the continent to rise.

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