“I hate you.”
That’s how a group of young people on a street in the city of Dushanbe, Moldova, dressed up as a bucket hat, a traditional headdress, in a bid to show support for the country’s pro-Russian opposition, according to a report published by the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
“It’s just so obvious to see that they are trying to show their support for Ukraine,” said Rasha Khokhova, a member of the opposition political party the United Moldova Alliance, who spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity.
“They are wearing hats with the symbol of a Ukrainian flag on them, but the fact that they have made a political statement is very important.”
Dushanbo’s opposition leaders, many of whom are under house arrest, have been staging protests in the capital, Simferopol, since April to demand a return to Ukraine.
The pro-Russia demonstrators who were photographed wearing hats emblazoned with the Ukraine flag in Simferopoly, on the outskirts of the capital Dushampore, Moldovan March 16, 2016.
The anti-government demonstrators, who are seen on the street wearing traditional headdresses and carrying flags, said they were “just trying to protect our land” after the government announced plans to relocate a regional railway line that links the cities of Dziwiske, Simbirsk and Tbilisi to neighboring Ukraine.
“We are not in Ukraine, we are not part of Ukraine,” a masked man, who was wearing a hat emblazed with the Ukrainian flag, told the Times of India.
“We are here to protect the land, to defend the rights of our people, our land.”
The protest, dubbed “Moldova in the Crosshairs,” has been criticized by the opposition as a propaganda stunt.
In the video posted to YouTube, the masked man said the protest was in support of the protesters’ right to freedom of expression.
On Saturday, the opposition protesters gathered outside the Simferopians parliament, where the assembly has been since April.
They were met by hundreds of pro-government protesters who shouted slogans in support and criticized the opposition.
The headdress is traditionally worn by members of the Moldovan military, which is allied with the pro-Ukrainian “People’s Army,” or Poroshenko’s National Guard.
In recent months, the military has begun using paramilitary units in the country.
A spokesperson for the Russian Embassy in Moldova said the group was “wearing a hat with the slogan of the People’s Army of Moldova” as part of a protest in support for Moldova’s pro, pro-EU opposition.
The spokesperson said the embassy would not comment on the actions of individual protesters.
Moldovan authorities have responded to the opposition protests by placing heavy restrictions on the movement of opposition supporters and imposing restrictions on public gatherings, including at government buildings.
On Saturday night, Moldavian Interior Minister Olga Mankova told reporters that there would be “a full review of the situation” in the future.
She said the Interior Ministry would continue to work with all political parties in Moldavia, but also with the opposition, including with its “parties that have been in the opposition.”