Moldova: 20,000 stage anti-govt protest for 8th day, demand probe into missing $1.5 billion

CHISINAU, Moldova – Some 20,000 people protested Sunday against Moldova’s government for the eighth straight day, demanding a probe into the estimated $1.5 billion that disappeared from three Moldovan banks last year.

Speaking Romanian and Russian, protesters in Chisinau, the capital, demanded the resignation of the president, the general prosecutor, the national bank governor and others. They also want an early election and to form a new political party.

One protest leader, Valentin Dolganiuc, urged Moldovans to stage acts of civil disobedience and hold a general strike in this East European nation of 4 million.

Protesters held talks with Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet earlier this week, who said his pro-European government’s priorities were to fight corruption and reform the judicial system. The protest still continued in one of Europe’s poorest nations, which has been mired in political instability since a parliamentary election in November.

The money disappeared from the state-owned Savings Bank, the Social Bank and Unibank before Moldova’s parliamentary election. The banks were put under the National Bank of Moldova’s administration in December and the losses covered by state reserves.

The anti-government protest started Sept. 6 when tens of thousands rallied in a pedestrian square. A few hundred protesters remain camped out.