Russia ‘arms’ gas supply in Moldova dispute, says EU

Moldova has declared a state of emergency over gas shortages after Russian supplier Gazprom raised prices.

The top European Union diplomat accused Russia of using natural gas to intimidate neighboring Moldova in remarks that are likely to worsen latent tensions between Moscow and the bloc.

Josep Borrell’s comments Thursday came after several days of heated dispute between Chisinau and Moscow over the power supply issue, which initially erupted in late September when Moldova’s contract with the Russian state gas company Gazprom expired.

Russia had supplied all of Moldova’s natural gas until then, but efforts to reach a renewed deal failed when Gazprom proposed a price increase and Moldova resisted paying the increased tariff.

Moldovan officials have continued to negotiate with the Russian gas giant, saying they would like to sign a new long-term contract with Gazprom, as long as it is affordable.

Meanwhile, Gazprom has demanded that Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, pay off outstanding debts of up to $ 709 million in the absence of a new deal. The company warned that it would cut off Moldova’s gas supply on December 1 if payment was not received.

The Kremlin, for its part, has rejected suggestions that it is manipulating the situation to exert political influence over the former Soviet nation, which is currently ruled by the pro-Western government of President Maia Sandu.

‘Armament of the gas supply’

But Borrell rejected that claim, suggesting that Gazprom’s proposed price increase was a “consequence of the militarization of the gas supply” by Moscow.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita in Brussels, he said the “political characteristics” of the situation should be taken into account, although he did not offer any detailed evidence of Russian pressure.

“It’s a sharp (price) increase related to political issues, which requires our support,” Borrell said, referring to a 60 million euro ($ 70 million) grant from the EU to help Moldova with its agreed-upon energy crisis. this week.

“This will go to the most vulnerable Moldovans,” he said.

The ongoing dispute with Gazprom prompted Chisinau to turn to a non-Russian natural gas supplier for the first time earlier this week, in a move aimed at diversifying its energy supply after years of strong Russian influence over the nation of 2, 6 million inhabitants.

The deal saw Moldova receive one million cubic meters (35.3 million cubic feet) of gas from Polish supplier PGNiG on Tuesday, a week after the country’s parliament declared a 30-day state of emergency when Gazprom cut its gas supply by about a third.

Kremlin denies ‘politicization’

Moldova’s Foreign Ministry said Monday that it needs to keep the gas flow “at an acceptable level” to “ensure the country’s energy security.”

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov scoffed at the news that Moldova is opting for other gas suppliers, noting that such shipments would be more expensive than Russian gas.

He also denied that there were “political problems” related to the energy dispute.

“There is a demand for gas, there is a commercial supply along with a discount supply and the problem of accumulated debt. All of this is purely commercial in nature and there is no politicization here, ”Peskov said in a conference call with journalists on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said the company “cannot work to generate losses” and that “Moldova is causing a crisis with its own hands.”



Reference-www.aljazeera.com

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