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Page last updated at 16:17 GMT, Saturday, 25 April 2009 17:17 UK

Moldova's 'Twitter revolutionary' speaks out

Protests rock the Moldovan capital Chisinau on 8 April
The protest organisers relied heavily on the internet

The Moldovan capital, Chisinau, was rocked by protests earlier this month amid claims that an election which returned the Communist Party to power was rigged.

The BBC's Oana Lungescu spoke to Natalia Morar, the journalist accused of masterminding Moldova's "Twitter revolution" - so dubbed because many demonstrators were alerted to the protests by text and social networking tools.

Natalia Morar, 25, smiled broadly when I met her on Friday night in a park in central Chisinau.

"I never felt that just a walk in the park could be such a big happiness," she told me. "It feels great!"

Just hours before, she had been under house arrest. For the previous 10 days she had had no access to internet and was not allowed to talk on the phone.

"It was really terrible because I was absolutely cut off from all sources to find out what happened to my friends, who were with me in the street."

Officially charged with helping organise mass disturbances, she faces 15 years in prison, but strongly denies any involvement in the violence.

Spontaneous protest

Natalia Morar speaks to the BBC's Oana Lungescu
None of us could imagine that such a thing could happen, but it shows there exists a very big protest inside society
Natalia Morar

The authorities, she says, have shown her no photos, videos or any other evidence to substantiate the charges against her.

It all started in a Chisinau cafe, when Ms Morar and a handful of friends decided to hold a peaceful protest against the Communist victory in what they thought was a rigged election.

"It just happened through Twitter, the blogosphere, the internet, SMS, websites and all this stuff. We just met, we brainstormed for 15 minutes, and decided to make a flash mob [internet-organised spontaneous public gathering]...

"In several hours, 15,000 people came out into the street."

Youth 'unhappy'

Although she was amazed by the size of the protests which started peacefully on 6 April, she thinks the reason was sheer frustration pent up in Europe's poorest country.

Moldova map

"None of us could imagine that such a thing could happen," Ms Morar told me, "but it shows there exists a very big protest inside society and within young people.

"Moldovan youth are not pleased with what is happening in Moldova. Liberty is a great thing for us and we don't want to live in a Soviet kind of society," she says vehemently.

The protests, which turned violent on 7 April, were dominated by young people who grew up after Moldova declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Thousands have studied in neighbouring Romania, an EU member, and hundreds of thousands have had to seek work abroad.

Ms Morar dismisses allegations that either Romanian or Russian secret services were behind the protests.

A Moldovan worker shovels debris left by protesters inside the parliament building in Chisinau on 9 April
Parliament was badly damaged in the protests

Two years ago, she was expelled from Russia for writing about a money-laundering scandal allegedly involving the Kremlin and Russia's security service.

Now, she tells me, she plans to quit journalism and work full-time with a youth foundation called ThinkMoldova she helped set up last year to bring democratic change to her native country.

But does she consider herself a dangerous woman? The question makes her laugh.

"I'm just a young woman with an active [interest in my country], nothing else. I'm just a free person and I want to be free."

Breakthrough

Most of the 200 people arrested during the protests have now been freed.

Three died during the protests in suspicious circumstances.

In an apparent breakthrough, after two high-level EU visits to Chisinau this week, the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana announced that the authorities had agreed to start a political dialogue with the opposition parties and include them, together with international experts, in a commission due to investigate the unrest.

After talks with Mr Solana, the veteran communist President Vladimir Voronin said Moldova had emerged from the political crisis. But a senior EU diplomat described it more cautiously as "a good start."

The EU envoy for Moldova, Kalman Mizsei, will work out the details in the next few days, together with officials from the Council of Europe.

EU foreign ministers will also discuss the situation in Moldova on Monday, in a flurry of diplomatic activity that shows Europe's troubled eastern border remains under close watch.



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