CHISINAU (Reuters) – Russian state-owned company Gazprom continues to send supplies to Moldova’s indebted breakaway enclave of Transdniestria without receiving payment simply because it wants to prop up the region, Moldova’s energy minister said on Sunday.
Moldova’s pro-European government, backed by loans from EU institutions, has been buying its gas from other European sources since last December.
Disputes over price and supply cuts imposed by Gazprom have raised tensions between Russia and Moldova, a former Soviet state that sits between Ukraine and EU member Romania.
“I think for Russia, the de facto free supply of gas to Transdniestria is a higher priority, far more important than any business relationship, money or other considerations,” Victor Parlicov told the deschide.md news website.
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“You saw what Gazprom did when debts piled up (in Moldova) and what measures were taken to reduce volumes. But as for debts (in Transdniestria), Gazprom basically provides supplies for free and doesn’t get paid at all. And I can see that it suits them.”
Transdniestria owes Gazprom $9 billion for gas supplies and places the money collected from consumers in a “gas account” instead of paying. Gazprom says Moldova has long-term debt of $709 million, but the government has subjected that amount to international audit.
With the help of a 300 million euro ($325 million) loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Moldova has obtained supplies from European sources. It bought a small amount of gas last month from Greece to test the import route.
Pro-Russian Transdniestria is a strip of land that was separated from Moldova in the last days of Soviet rule.
A brief war pitted the region against newly independent Moldova in 1992 and 1,500 Russian “peacekeepers” remain there despite attempts to resolve the dispute. Conflicts and violence between the two parties are practically non-existent.
Moldova has repeatedly denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as Russian missiles have landed on Moldovan territory.
Transdniestrian separatist leaders accuse Ukraine of conspiring to assassinate them.
(Reporting by Alexander Tanas; Editing by Ron Popeski and Grant McCool)
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