Moldavian Nationalist Gang Beats Up Parliament Members
MOSCOW (AP) _ Moldavian nationalist youths roamed the streets of Kishinev, attacking Russian-speakers and beating up an ethnic Russian member of parliament, Soviet news media and a witness said Friday.
The violence swept the Moldavian capital Thursday after the funeral of Dumitru Moldovanu, a young man who reportedly was stabbed in the heart three days earlier in an argument with a Russian who insulted the republic’s flag.
Ethnic tension has gripped the republic of 4.3 million people, bordering Romania, as it has pushed for independence from the Soviet Union during the past year.
Alarmed by rising Moldavian nationalism, two minority groups have launched separatist movements.
The Gagauz - about 150,000 Turkish Christians - declared a new republic in southern Moldavia.
Ethnic Russians and Ukrainians joined in declaring a new republic along the Dniester River in eastern Moldavia. They speak Russian rather than Romanian, Moldavia’s official language.
The ethnic conflict flared into violence Nov. 2 when Moldavia’s government sent its Interior Ministry troops to clear roadblocks set up by militants in the Dniester area. Three people were killed and nine were wounded by gunfire.
On Thursday, more than 150 ethnic Moldavian youths, angry over the stabbing of Moldavanu, broke into cafes and beat up people who did not speak Romanian, the official Soviet news agency Tass and the government newspaper Izvestia reported.
A member of the non-Moldavian minority in parliament, Ilya Trombitsky, said in a telephone interview Friday he witnessed the beating of a colleague and narrowly avoided a similar fate.
He said he was sitting in a popular cafe in downtown Kishinev, drinking coffee with fellow lawmakers Andrei Safonov and Pyotr Shornikov, when about 20 youths pushed their way into the building.
″They came up to some people at another table who were speaking Russian, and they demanded to know their nationality,″ Trombitsky said.
″One young man said he was Russian. He was sitting with a girl, but they grabbed him anyway and punched him, and he fell to the ground and they started kicking him.
″We tried to help him, but there were too many of them. They came after us, too. We headed for the door, but they blocked the way.″
He said he and Shornikov were allowed through, ″but they wouldn’t let Safonov out.″
Trombitsky said they called police, but by the time help arrived, Safonov had a black eye and was cut and bruised, and the young man first attacked had received ″a very good beating.″
The lawmaker said the youths stole Safonov’s watch and the girl’s jewelry. He said similar attacks were reported elsewhere downtown.
Tass quoted First Deputy Interior Minister Konstantin Antoch as saying Kishinev police were on alert, but ″proved ineffective and somewhat late″ in stopping the rampage.
No one was arrested, Antoch said.
The parliament passed a resolution Friday condemning the violence and calling it a provocation aimed at disrupting Moldavia’s ″national reconciliation process.″