Moldavia's imposing parliament building is surrounded by a parade of the country's most vulnerable citizens, who are bussed in by the thousands from all over the nation and each have their own personal story of deprivation and resentment to share.
Some complain that the government is making fun of us and that we are a laughing stock.
Ala, who is wearing a blue wool hat, shoves her pale, wide face right up against mine and says, "There are people with four or five children who literally have nothing to eat. ".
According to the president of Moldova, energy costs now account for more than 70% of household income.
Ala claims that they took away half of her pension.
However, she claims, "so far we haven't seen a penny." "When we elected this government, they promised to raise salaries and pensions.
Governments throughout Europe and beyond are closely monitoring Sunday's protests, which were organized by Moldova's pro-Russian Sor party. The Sor party reportedly paid for most of the protesters' bus transportation to the capital city of Chisinau.
Days before the meeting, President Maia Sandu warned that Russia was planning to overthrow her pro-Western government by sending military-trained saboteurs into the nation dressed as civilians.
According to Russia, the Moldovan authorities are using the accusation to draw attention away from their own social and economic shortcomings.
With its own pro-Russian breakaway region and a strategic border location with Ukraine, Moldova is reliant on Russian gas.
In an effort to keep its Russian- and Romanian-speaking populations united, the Chisinau government came under pressure last year when Moscow cut its supply to Moldova by half.
Protests against the rising cost of gas and electricity started in the fall of last year.
President Sandu claimed last Monday during a public briefing that Russia had already tried to destabilize the situation in Moldova by causing the energy crisis, which she claimed was "expected to cause major discontent among the population and lead to violent protests.".
According to her, the current plan called for "diversionists with military training [...] who would engage in violent action, launch attacks on buildings housing state institutions, or even take hostages.".
Following security checks, Moldovan authorities have recently refused entry to 57 citizens of countries that are friendly to Russia, including a group of Serbian soccer fans and several boxers from Montenegro.
And this week, the airspace over Moldova was unexpectedly shut down for a number of hours.
Rosian Vasiloi, the head of Moldova's border police, told the BBC that it is "clear that Russia is an aggressor state.". Despite stating that the threat had been present since the start of the Ukraine war on February 24, he emphasized that it was now "different; it's a mix of threats from inside and outside Moldova.".
He thinks Moldova faces less risk as long as Ukraine fights on and prevails in the conflict.
If Ukraine falls, Moldova will follow, he declared. I'm not scared, though. ".
Since the war started, the government of President Sandu has worked to diversify the nation's energy supplies and wean it off its reliance on Russian gas, but attacks on the infrastructure of Ukraine and the price of importing electricity from Romania haven't made that easy.
She has argued that "internal forces," such as the opposition Sor party, would be crucial to the alleged Russian plot, and she has urged parliament to enact stricter security regulations.
The leader of today's demonstration outside of parliament, Sor general secretary Marina Tauber, claims that her party is not against the EU and favors good relations with all parties.
However, some members of her party openly admit that they would welcome Russian intervention.
We meet party councilor Iurie Berenchi in the Sor stronghold of Orhei, which is an hour's drive north of the capital Chisinau.
He assured me, "We're not afraid, because Russia would take Moldova in less than a day if they wanted to. ".
Ms. Berenchi is unambiguous when asked if she would welcome that.
I believe that it is, he replied. "With Russia, we'd be in a lot better shape than we are right now. ".
Many in Chisinau believe that closer ties with the West are necessary to safeguard Moldova's independence and democracy at this crucial juncture. In parliament, the party of President Sandu holds a commanding majority. .
However, the viewpoint from the crowd outside that parliament on Sunday was different, and there is a chance that the pressure could cause the diverse society of Moldova to become more polarized.
Ala and her friends were questioned about whether they thought Russia intended to invade Moldova, as their president fears, and the danger was obvious.
They yell, "Yes, allow them to come.". "We desire that they visit us. We'd like to be a part of Russia!