Putin backs Moldova’s new government amid political turmoil

Supporters of the former government camp outside the interior ministry in Chisinau, Moldova, Wednesday, June 12, 2019. Moldova’s police chief on Wednesday dismissed six officers who publicly backed a rival government, reflecting a continuing power struggle that has heightened political tensions in the impoverished ex-Soviet nation.(AP Photo/Roveliu Buga)

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has given his strong support to Moldova’s new coalition government, which has been locked in a power struggle with a rival administration in the former Soviet republic.

In an interview Thursday with the Mir television station in Russia, Putin lashed out at the previous Moldovan government, which has refused to cede power to the new authorities.

The new coalition government in Moldova, only announced at the weekend, includes the pro-Russia party of Igor Dodon, the country’s president since late 2016, and the pro-Europe ACUM group. The previous administration had been dominated by the Democratic Party, controlled by powerful oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc.

Both claim they are the legitimate authority in the country, in a dispute that’s ratcheted up fears of mounting instability in what is one of the poorest nations in Europe.

Several Western countries, including France and Germany, have backed the new government of Prime Minister Maia Sandu. The U.S. State Department has urged restraint and political dialogue while saying that will of the Moldovan people expressed at Feb. 24 election must be respected without interference.

Putin made clear Thursday what side he’s backing.

While hailing the coalition for overcoming differences to “work together,” Putin blasted opponents for “making money on the Moldovan people and using it to boost their personal wealth and leverage on the state.”

“We are certainly supporting President Dodon as well as his current coalition partners so that they could get rid of those people who have usurped power in Moldova,” Putin said.

The legitimacy of the coalition government, which followed inconclusive elections in February and months of subsequent political stalemate, has been disputed by Moldova’s Constitutional Court, which has alleged violation of a post-election deadline for the creation of a new government.

The crisis came to a head after the court last week ordered Dodon to dissolve parliament. Following his refusal, lawmakers voted into office the new government instead. The court then declared the new government illegal and replaced Dodon with outgoing Prime Minister Pavel Filip. Filip immediately called for parliament to be dissolved and snap elections to be held, a move that Dodon has declared unlawful.

At a press conference on Thursday, Dodon asserted that support for his alliance has been growing at home and abroad. Dodon called on the supporters to gather in support at a rally on Sunday and urged opponents to withdraw their opposition to the new administration.

“We have real chance to make a real peaceful transition of government in Moldova,” he said. “And I speak to those, who don’t want to understand this: You still have time.”

Prime Minister Sandu also urged people “from all over the country to show the world the Moldovan republic has won.”

“The dictatorship we thought was impossible to defeat, was shattered,” she added.

Dozens of supporters of the former government have been camping outside the state institutions since Sunday.

___

Nataliya Vasilyeva in Russia, Vadim Ghirda in Romania and Jovana Gec in Serbia contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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