Shor Party protesters set up a tent in front of the presidency building on September 25.
Supporters of a fugitive businessman's pro-Russian party have led thousands in a protest outside the Moldovan president's official residence in Chisinau to complain about gas and other price hikes and press their demands for early elections.
Some of them set up around a dozen tents in front of the presidential home on September 25 in a repeat of a similar attempt a week earlier to erect an encampment outside parliament.
They shouted chants of "Down with the government!" and "Down with [President] Maia Sandu!"
The protests were organized by the Shor Party, whose wealthy populist leader Ilan Shor has been abroad since 2019 following fraud and money-laundering convictions two years earlier.
Shor's supporters accuse the government and Sandu of doing too little to combat price hikes -- including a 27 percent natural-gas hike announced on September 23 -- and other setbacks exacerbated by Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine.
But the demonstrators are also demanding an end to the corruption investigations against Shor and other members of the party, which placed third in the 2021 elections behind Sandu's ruling Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) and the Bloc of Communists and Socialists.
Sandu, who was abroad last week, did not comment on the protests.
But government representatives accused "thieves" concerned about justice reform and the fight against corruption of organizing the demonstrations.
Shor was sentenced to more than seven years in prison in 2017 in connection with the loss of around $1 billion from a trio of Moldovan banks and is now wanted internationally.
Multiple Shor Party members had their parliamentary immunity withdrawn after investigations into a rash of massive thefts between 2013 and 2019 that devastated public confidence, including a lucrative airport concession and the banks case.
Shor Party deputy leader Marina Tauber was placed under house arrest on September 14 after losing her parliamentary immunity nearly two months earlier amid suspicion that she falsified a party financial report and accepted financing from a criminal group.
Moldova is among Europe's poorest states with a separatist-led territory, Transdniester, that is heavily populated by Russian speakers and has around 1,500 Russian troops still stationed at a Soviet-era facility despite Chisinau's request for their departure.
It has also faced some of the toughest fallout from Russia's seven-month-old invasion of neighboring Ukraine, including huge flows of Ukrainian refugees and concerns that Russia's military could try to occupy its territory next.
The pro-Western government in Moldova accelerated its EU bid after Russia invaded Ukraine, and was given candidate status alongside Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov threatened Moldova with military retaliation if Moldovan officials "threaten the security of our troops" in Transdniester.