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Moldova: Romania Denies Involvement In Protests

Prague, 5 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Romania today rejected Moldovan Communist President Vladimir Voronin's accusations that Bucharest is financing antigovernment protests in his country.

Voronin said on 3 April that the ongoing protests in Moldova's capital Chisinau are being sponsored by neighboring Romania and Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester. He said on Moldovan TV that Romania and Transdniester are paying protesters what he called "fabulous" sums of money to stage daily demonstrations.

But government spokesman Claudiu Lucaci today rejected Voronin's allegations.

Lucaci tells RFE/RL that Romania is not involved in the demonstrations against the communist government in Chisinau. He says the protests have a "domestic origin."

"The Romanian government is in no way involved [in the protests in Moldova]. We have said that every time when there is an attempt to draw Romanian authorities into this conflict, which has only a domestic origin, which Romania does not want to have in its attention and in which Romania does not have any involvement."

Lucaci says Voronin's accusations are part of a series of what he calls "provocations."

"Mr. Voronin's statements are part of a long row of provocations and other statements which came at different levels and channels from this area -- the Republic of Moldova -- which Romania's government is trying to counter by clearly and repeatedly stating that there is no Romanian involvement."

Thousands of Moldovans have been staging daily protests against Voronin's government since 31 March when an estimated 50,000 people rallied in downtown Chisinau, calling for the government's resignation and for early elections. Protesters have erected tents on Chisinau's central square, keeping round-the-clock rallies.

The latest wave of antigovernment demonstrations was triggered by the disappearance of opposition leader Vlad Cubreacov, the vice president of the Christian Democratic People's Party (PPCD) and the main driving force behind earlier anticommunist rallies which began in January. Cubreacov disappeared 21 March after being dropped off by an official car in the vicinity of his home in Chisinau. He never made it home.

Authorities subsequently opened an investigation, but no result has been announced so far. The government is offering a $37,000 reward for information that could solve the case.

Cubreacov and PPCD President Iurie Rosca organized the first wave of anticommunist demonstrations in January to protest a decision to introduce the mandatory study of the Russian language in schools. The proposal would also give Russian "special status" beside Moldovan.

Voronin's government later abolished the measure, but protesters did not give in, turning against the communist authorities themselves. The protesters accuse the authorities of trying to "re-Russify" Moldova and bring it back into Moscow's sphere of influence.

Most of Moldova was part of Romania before World War II, and some two-thirds of its 4.5 million people speak a language -- called Moldovan by nationalists -- that is virtually identical to Romanian. The rest speak Russian.

Parliament, meanwhile, has decided to strip Rosca and one of his colleagues of immunity so that they can be prosecuted. But Rosca told the protesters yesterday that the decision -- which was made during a secret meeting -- is unconstitutional and he will not obey it.

"I refuse to obey, because this is an infamy, which bears the characteristic of political repression and has nothing in common with the rule of law, with legality, with normality, with our constitutional regime."

Rosca has repeatedly denied that he or the demonstrators are being paid by Romania or separatist Transdniester's leadership.

Moldova's pro-Russian communists came to power in February 2001, pledging to take Moldova closer to Russia and to bring back the relative prosperity Moldova enjoyed during Soviet times. The communists won more than two-thirds of the parliament's 101 seats, while the pro-Romanian Christian Democrat Popular Party (PPCD) won only 11 seats.

Faced with growing protests, the government responded by temporarily banning the PPCD in February and by interrogating demonstrators -- most of them students. But protests swelled again this month after Cubreacov's disappearance, prompting officials to threaten they will use force.