Russia backs off on gas threats to Moldova

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Russian energy company Gazprom backed off on a threat to sever gas supplies to Moldova. Moldova is heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies, though it has Western aspirations. File photo by Roman Pilipey/EPA

Nov. 28 (UPI) — Russian energy company Gazprom said Monday it reserved the right to cut off the supply of natural gas to Moldova, after backing down on a threat to disrupt flows from arteries in Ukraine.

Gazprom said state energy company Moldovagaz was able to issue a late payment for gas supplies received so far in November.

“Therefore, it was decided not to reduce gas supplies to the Sudzha entry point for transit to Modlova,” the company said in a statement posted on its Twitter account. “Gazprom reserves the right to reduce or completely suspend gas supplies in case of failure to make payments for them.”

Ukraine hosts a dense network of Soviet-era pipelines that carry Russian supplies to the European Union. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that, before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine in February, the EU relied on Russia for 40% of its natural gas supplies.

That’s been reduced, however, thanks in part to a diversification effort. Nevertheless, Russia’s position on gas supplies for Moldova, which petitioned to join the EU earlier this year, suggest some of the geopolitical risks to the regional energy sector remain.

Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU, in early November unveiled a $250 million aid package for Moldova aimed at shoring up the country’s energy reserves.

Moldova, which like Ukraine is a former Soviet republic, received $200 million in grants and loans to help break its dependence on Russia for its natural gas.

Another $50 million in budgetary support has been set aside for Moldova’s poorest citizens, while von der Leyen also vowed to “help mobilize other international donors.”

Despite its Western pivot, elements inside Moldova are still aligned with the Kremlin. The U.S. Treasury Department in October sanctioned two Moldovan oligarchs along with several Russian nationals for their role in attempts to interfere in Moldova’s democratic elections.

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