Moldova declares state of emergency over gas crisis

Moldova to seek cheaper natural gas from Europe after traditional supplier Russia hiked prices.

Moldova government
Moldovan PM says gov't unable to agree new energy deal with main supplier, Russia's Gazprom, and a state of emergency would allow it to buy gas from other sources [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

Moldova’s parliament has approved a government-requested state of emergency until November 20 as it tries to ease gas shortages amid soaring world energy prices.

The eternal flame at a World War II monument in the capital Chisinau has been extinguished due to gas shortages, the defence ministry said on Friday.

The country of 2.6 million people wedged between Romania and Ukraine gets gas from Russia via its pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria and Ukraine.

Head of Ukrainian state gas transmission operator GTSOU, Sergiy Makogon, told the Reuters news agency the supplied volumes “are only enough for 67 percent of Moldova’s needs”.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told his Moldovan counterpart in Kyiv that Ukraine would continue pumping gas to Moldova. Moldova consumes 2.8 billion cubic metres of gas per year.

Russian gas giant Gazprom has increased prices from $550 per thousand cubic metres last month to $790 this month – a level Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu said was “not justified and not realistic” for Europe’s poorest country.

“We face a critical situation,” Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said on Friday.

She told parliament that Moldova would be seeking supplies from EU countries and thanked Romania and Ukraine for already supplying some gas.

While Gazprom and its daughter company Moldovagaz last month agreed to extend their existing contract for supplies until October 31, Gavrilita said Moldovagaz “is not keeping its word”.

The company is not providing the required volumes of natural gas, she said, with Moldova receiving a third less than usual for October.

The prime minister said Moldova and Gazprom were continuing negotiations but that the ex-Soviet country had “no confidence” in the success of the talks and “must take action” or be “left without gas”.

The month-long state of emergency gives Moldovan utility company Energocom the power to secure gas from other countries.

The country’s gas shortages come amid skyrocketing gas prices that some in Europe have blamed on Moscow not providing additional supplies to put pressure on the continent.

Some experts have said Russia has boosted prices as pressure on Moldova for electing a pro-European president in Maia Sandu last year, who has said she wants to fold the breakaway region of Transnistria back into Moldova.

Igor Dodon, the former president defeated by Sandu, called the decision to put out the eternal flame a “disgrace” and accused the current authorities of seeking to save money on “sacred values”.

The country has long been divided over closer ties with the EU or maintaining relations with Soviet-era master Moscow.

Source: News Agencies