EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has paid an official visit to Moldova, where she announced a 250 million-euro ($250 million) financial package to help one of Europe's poorest countries overcome a severe energy crisis amid Russia's war in Ukraine.
Von der Leyen said on November 10 that Moldova was to receive 100 million euros in grants and the same amount again in loans from the European Union to help it meet its gas needs this winter, starting on January 1.
An extra 50 million euros will help the country's most vulnerable citizens, von der Leyen said at a joint news conference with Moldova's pro-Western president, Maia Sandu.
"European solidarity with the Republic of Moldova is unshakable," von der Leyen said. "We assure you that we will do our best to help you through this crisis."
The chief of the 27-member bloc's executive said that a donors meeting will be held in Paris later this month to help Moldova purchase energy resources.
Moldova has received hundreds of thousands of refugees in the wake of Russia's unprovoked invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
Von der Leyen said that the EU will come to Moldova's aid the same way Moldovans came to the aid of Ukraine.
"Moldova is part of our European family. And family must stick together when the times are getting tough and difficult," she said.
Moldova has been invited to open membership talks with the European Union together with Ukraine in the wake of the invasion.
Sandu has condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, while Russia has threatened to cut off gas supplies to Moldova in an ongoing dispute over energy payments. Moldova is heavily dependent on Russia for its natural gas.
Sandu has said that Moscow is using gas as "political blackmail" in the country, where household energy tariffs have increased six-fold in the past year amid skyrocketing inflation.
Related: Big Oil Is Not Dancing To Government Tunes. Period.
"We are facing the worst energy crisis in three decades," Sandu said on November 10. "A crisis in which energy resources are being used as weapons against democracy."
On November 11, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola will also pay an official visit to Moldova.
Fears of a spillover from the Ukraine conflict have persisted since the Russian invasion amid concerns that Moscow could attempt to create a land corridor through southern Ukraine to Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester.
Russia maintains some 1,500 soldiers in Transdniester who are said to be guarding a huge Soviet-era arms depot.
Besides the troops ostensibly guarding the depot, Russia has another 400-500 soldiers in Transdniester that have been labeled as peacekeepers since the end of a 1992 war between Moldova and the separatists that ended in a tense cease-fire enforced by Russian troops.
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