By Alexander Tanas
(Reuters) – Moldova’s parliament voted on Thursday to outlaw the ribbon of St George, a black and orange military symbol of Russian patriotism, in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
Under the new law, anyone who makes, wears or displays the striped ribbon faces a fine of at least 900 lei ($ 49) or 69 hours of community service.
Lawmakers from pro-Western Moldovan President Maia Sandu’s PAS party approved the law despite a boycott by opposition parties, mainly made up of socialists and communists who favor closer ties with Russia rather than with the European Union.
The ribbon was first introduced as an honor by Catherine the Great, but it has gained particular significance in the Russian-speaking world since separatists in eastern Ukraine adopted it as a symbol of their support for Russia in 2014.
“This ribbon has begun to symbolize the horrors committed against innocent people. The aggressor’s soldiers wear this ribbon when they kill civilians,” said PAS lawmaker Dumitru Alaiba.
Russia has repeatedly denied its troops have targeted civilians since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24 to carry out what it calls a “special military operation.”
Socialist party lawmaker Bogdan Tirdea said the new law “deals a heavy blow to Moldovan-Russian relations, effectively recognizing Russia as the aggressor.”
In early March, Sandu signed a formal application for Moldova to join the European Union, hastening its planned pro-Western course in the wake of the invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
($ 1 = 4.5370 lei)
(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Leslie Adler)