When thousands filled the streets of Moldova's capital Sunday in the little country's largest protest in years, their complaint was pretty significant.
Late last year, about $1 billion disappeared in an apparent banking scandal that's mystified Europe's poorest country.
To put that sum into perspective, it's an eighth of the country's GDP. In United States terms, that portion of the economy would add up to more than $2 trillion.
The money reportedly vanished in a series of murky loans dealt out last November by three major banks — one of them state-owned — to as yet unknown recipients.
Officials wised up to the scheme only earlier this year.
Investigators — including the U.S. auditing firm Kroll — are looking into the matter, but officials have kept the details quiet. And a great many Moldovans are mad about it.
They say it's symptomatic of the widespread corruption that's plagued their country since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
That's also why Sunday's protest was about more than just missing money. It drew at least 10,000 demonstrators, police said. If that sounds unimpressive, consider that there are just 3.5 million people in Moldova.
Despite the growing prominence of pro-Western politicians who pledge to pull Moldova closer to Europe, critics claim the authorities have done little to clean up corruption.
Igor Botan, a political analyst and a member of the grass-roots movement that organized Sunday's protest, believes the pro-European ruling coalition was complicit in the crime.
"Our country is a poor and agrarian country," he told GlobalPost on Monday. "But it's home to decent people who want their country to flourish, to be closer to European standards, and for it to find its economic niche alongside the European Union."
The last time protests this big rocked the capital Chisinau was in 2009. Back then, critics say fraudulent parliamentary elections helped thrust the Communist Party — which remains influential there — into power.
Some observers are wondering whether the protests can reach critical mass, just like in neighboring Ukraine.
For now, that seems unlikely.
But Moldovans are no doubt hoping a speedy and successful investigation will return their missing cash, however far-fetched that might seem. If not, that'll mean a hefty tab for taxpayers to cover.
The group of friends of Georgia in the OSCE has delivered a joint statement to reaffirm their “firm support” for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, condemn the Russian aggression and demand the release of a well-known Georgian doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili who...( ) Read all
The foreign ministers of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have signed a joint statement on the establishment of a so-called EU+3 format including the three Eastern Partnership countries in order to advance their goals of European integration.( ) Read all
The Albanian village of Thumane experienced the worst destruction in this week's earthquake. Residents there have celebrated rescues and mourned deaths as emergency crews search the rubble for survivors. The Albanian village of Thumane was hit hard by Tuesday's 6.4 magnitude earthquake....( ) Read all
Effort aims to reduce the stigma experienced by those living with the virus. A reproductive scientist checking embryos The online clinic aims to give people diagnosed with HIV the opportunity to create life and to raise awareness. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian The...( ) Read all
Bears have become so numerous that there are growing calls for a return to trophy hunting A spate of deadly bear attacks in Romania has raised fears that the population of Europe's largest protected carnivore is increasing beyond control. Three men have been killed in little over a month in...( ) Read all
Two years ago, many Russians were shocked when the parliament significantly reduced penalties for domestic violence. Since then, women have been fighting back - demanding new legislation to restrain abusers, demonstrating in support of three sisters who took the law into their own hands, and...( ) Read all
You can have a great time at the Chisinau International Airport while waiting for your transfer. This is the conclusion of the well-known Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov, who shared his impressions of a recent trip to Moldova. According to him, Chisinau Airport is an excellent example of the...( ) Read all
There have been various reports about an illegal attempt to expropriate Danube Logistics Holding BV of its shareholding in Danube Logistics SRL, the operator and general investor in Giurgiulesti International Free Port. In order to discuss this subject in greater detail TIMPIL.MD had a...( ) Read all
Kyiv has co-signed with Russia and the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” (DPR, LPR) a commitment to: a) accept the holding of “local elections” in that Russian-controlled territory of Ukraine and b) accept the Organization for Security and Cooperation in...( ) Read all
On the occasion of the book launch, "Panorama of communism in Soviet Moldova", writer from the Republic of Moldova, Maria Sleahtitchi, one of the authors of the volume, spoke to B1.ro about the condition of Moldovan literature in a society strongly divided by ethnic and political...( ) Read all
The Council of Europe is concerned about the possible adoption by the Verkhovna Rada of a bill amending some laws of Ukraine regarding the activities of the judiciary (No. 1008), which provides, inter alia, a reduction in the number of judges of the Supreme Court and changes in the...( ) Read all
I would like to clarify a number of false and misleading press reports about Danube Logistics Holding BV’s acquisition of Danube Logistics SRL in 2011 and other matters that have been circulating in Moldova last week.( ) Read all
I begin with an allegory expressed by prof. Vytautas Landsbergis, the first head of the restored State of Lithuania, who used to address the options for geopolitical orientation after the restoration of the independence. When asked about the possibility in 1990s for Lithuania to choose...( ) Read all
Romania's President, the prime minister and the leader of the second biggest opposition party will face each other in presidential elections, along with five other candidates. This weekend saw the conclusion for the period of registration of runners in the elections due to take place in...( ) Read all
You’ve probably already heard the Romanian language from friends, relatives or strangers in the community. Maybe you have even made an attempt to learn basic phrases of Romanian for an upcoming trip. But have you ever wondered how the language was formed? We found ourselves wondering...( ) Read all
Regime change in Moldova has been met with cautious optimism by Brussels, as President Igor Dodon pledged to dismantle the businesses that have long dominated political life. But mere months after a contentious coalition was brokered between Dodon and Maia Sandu, both international observers and...( ) Read all