Moldovan President Maia Sandu says steps taken by her country -- one of Europe's poorest -- to diversify its gas supplies means Russia can no longer "blackmail" Chisinau "as it used to."
Speaking to RFE/RL at its headquarters in Prague on October 16, Sandu said Moldova's move to access gas through purchases on the open market and not directly from Russian energy giant Gazprom has given independence it previously didn't have.
"We don't buy Russian gas from Gazprom. We buy gas on the market, which means that Russia cannot blackmail us as it used to blackmail before, like a year ago, when every time they would not like the policies of the government in Moldova, they would just come back and say, 'We cut gas supplies,'" Sandu said.
Moldova used to buy Russian natural gas, but in October 2022 Gazprom decided to reduce the volumes of natural gas delivered to Chisinau even though it was in violation of its contract.
The former Soviet republic in September proposed paying $8.6 million to settle the debt that Gazprom says is more than $700 million.
But an audit showed there was no documentation for some of the debt and another portion of the debt was considered expired because it had accumulated over a long time while not being periodically reconfirmed by Gazprom. The audit also found the Moldovan government can demand compensation for Gazprom's decision in October 2022 to reduce the volumes of natural gas delivered to Moldova in violation of its contract.
Currently Gazprom provides gas supplies only to Moldova's Russian-backed breakaway Transdniester region, Moldovan authorities have said, with none going to central authorities in Chisinau.
But the Russian gas is being delivered to Transdniester via Ukraine, and the contract that provides for the transit of gas from Russia through the territory of Ukraine expires in 2024.
At the same time, Sandu said Moldova also buys electricity from a power plant in Transdniester, so Moldovans shouldn't be at risk of freezing in the winter if gas supplies to Transdniester are halted.
"Moldova is in a much better situation today compared to the previous two winters. First, because we have managed to make some stocks of gas. And second, we do believe that we are going to have electricity supply this winter," she said.
Wedged between Ukraine, Romania, and the Black Sea, Moldova has often found itself in the center of a struggle for influence between Moscow and the West.
The situation has intensified since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, especially with the Kremlin-backed breakaway region of Transdniester on its eastern border. Russia keeps more than 1,000 troops in Transdniester as "peacekeepers."
Sandu said Moldova has a connection to other European electricity markets, though that route goes through Ukraine, and is building a direct high-voltage connection line with Romania to ensure electricity supplies.
"Every time Russia drops bombs on the electricity network of Ukraine, we have problems. So that's why we need to have a direct connection, and we're working on it," Sandu said, adding the Romanian link would be ready in 2025.
Moldova applied for EU membership in March 2022 and was granted candidate status in June 2022.
More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:
- Oil Poised To Become U.S.’ Single Largest Export Product
- Low Natural Gas Demand Helps Europe Boost Inventories
- Oil Markets Remain On Edge As Biden Heads To Israel