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Thousands of Moldovans took part in anti-government protests this week against high inflation and soaring fuel prices that have been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Euractiv reported Monday.

About 20,000 people demonstrated in the capital Chișinău’s main square against the government of pro-Western President Maia Sandu. The protests are considered to be the largest in the small former Soviet state since Sandu was elected in 2020.

Demonstrators accused Sandu of failing to negotiate a more reasonable gas price with Russia and demanded her resignation. Some protesters set up camp outside the government’s headquarters and vowed to stay there until Sandu stepped down.

Under a contract signed last year, Moldova has been buying gas from Russian gas giant Gazprom. The price changes monthly, based on the spot price of gas and oil depending on the season. This year, spot prices have skyrocketed.

Energy prices in the small nation – sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania – increased by 29 percent in September from August, with prices in the latter month having already spiked nearly 50 percent from July.

Meanwhile, the country has reduced its growth forecast for 2022 to zero, citing record-high inflation of 34.3 percent and interest rates at nearly 22 percent.

Sandu was elected two years ago in a landslide election, pledging to fight corruption and make Moldova a member of the European Union – the 27-nation bloc recently put Moldova on the path to entry to the EU following the start of the war in Ukraine.

Since she came to power, Moldova’s prosecutor general has been removed, and the country’s previous pro-Russian president, Igor Dodon, has been placed under house arrest.

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