Saturday

4th Feb 2023

Russia threatens to cut off Moldova's gas, again

  • Russian firm Gazprom supplies almost all of Moldova's gas (Photo: gazprom.com)
Listen to article

Russia has threatened to cut off gas to Moldova and the US has imposed new sanctions on a Russian gas pipeline, amid spiralling tension in eastern Europe.

Moldova must pay Russian state-owned firm Gazprom $74m (€66m) in unpaid bills in the next 48 hours or face a total cut in supplies, Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov said on Monday (22 November).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Today is the scheduled date of payment. Yet, there is no payment," Kupriyanov said.

"I confirm that Moldovagaz received such a notification from Gazprom," Vadim Ceban, the CEO of Moldovan gas distributor Moldovagaz, also told Reuters.

"We are actively working with the government to solve the problem by the deadline stipulated in the notification. I hope that we will manage to solve this problem," he added.

The new emergency comes after the two sides negotiated a long-term supply contract last month, narrowly avoiding a national emergency in Moldova, which gets almost all its gas from Russia.

The talks involved Russia telling Moldova it should dilute its ties with the EU if it wanted a deal, according to Moldovan sources, in a quid pro quo denied by Russia at the time.

And Russia's latest show of power on the energy front comes amid Moscow's push to get Germany to let it use its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as a monopoly despite EU free-market laws.

But for its part, the US hit back at Russia also on Monday by blacklisting a Russian-linked firm, Transadria, and two ships involved in the pipeline operation.

"We continue to work with Germany and other allies and partners to reduce the risks posed by the pipeline to Ukraine and frontline Nato and EU countries and to push back against harmful Russian activities, including in the energy sphere," US secretary of state Antony Blinken said.

Nord Stream 2 bypasses Poland and Ukraine and would help Russia to cut off both Western allies in the event of a conflict.

Ukrainian military commanders also say it would embolden the Russian military by removing a potential problem for Russia if Ukraine's pipelines, which transit Russian gas to the EU, were damaged in new fighting.

Meanwhile, the Moldova gas scare comes amid rising tension on the Belarus-Poland and Russia-Ukraine borders.

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko on Monday railed at the EU for not helping him to take care of the thousands of migrants he has flown in from the Middle East and forced to attack Polish border guards.

"We must demand that the Germans take them," he said, referring to a group of 2,000 asylum seekers.

He claimed German chancellor Angela Merkel had promised him that the EU would take in people during phone calls in recent days.

"I'm still waiting for the EU to give us a response about 2,000 refugees ... they haven't even contacted us," Lukashenko said.

But for their part, Germany and Austria showed little sign of making any accommodation.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas, on Monday, denounced Belarus' "cynical misuse of migrants".

"The idea of having a humanitarian corridor to Germany for 2,000 migrants is not a solution that is acceptable to Germany or the EU," an Austrian government spokesman also said.

"The EU must not give in to blackmail from Lukashenko," Austrian chancellor Alexander Schallenberg added.

At the same time, Russia has built up an invasion force on Ukraine's eastern border, with Kyiv saying on Sunday it had intelligence that Moscow was preparing to attack early in the new year.

For their parts, the Italian prime minister Mario Draghi and Russian president Vladimir Putin discussed the situation by phone on Monday.

"Of particular concern are provocative steps by the Ukrainian side to deliberately exacerbate the situation in Donbas, including the use of weapons prohibited by the Minsk package of measures," Putin said, referring to a region in east Ukraine and an old ceasefire deal signed in the Belarusian capital.

He also "confirmed Russia's willingness to provide Europe with failsafe natural gas exports on a long-term basis, including by using the potential of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline", according to the Kremlin readout.

Interview

Moldova 'between rock and hard place', PM says

Moldovan prime minister Natalia Gavrilița has declined to confirm reports of Gazprom blackmail, but thanked her EU "friends" for their support in dealing with Russia.

Too early to 'de-escalate' Belarus crisis, says EU official

EU senior officials say Belarus needs to do much more than move migrants and asylum seekers into a shelter. They want UN aid agencies to have unhindered access to people stranded in Belarus. Poland is still refusing any humanitarian aid.

Opinion

In Moldova, a sense of foreboding

Moldova relies on Russian gas and it has 1,500 Russian troops fully in control of part of its territory, Transnistria. In light of the situation in Ukraine, it's all rather ominous.

EU energy ministers clash amid gas price uncertainty

EU energy ministers met on Thursday to debate spiking gas and electricity prices, and clashed over market reform - with some countries, led by Germany, opposing actions put forward by France and others.

Opinion

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

Column

Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us