EU accuses Russia of 'weaponising' gas in Moldova row

EU accuses Russia of 'weaponising' gas in Moldova row

Moldova has declared a state of emergency in the face of a severe gas crunch

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. Credit: AFP Photo

The EU's foreign policy chief on Thursday accused Russia of using gas as a "geopolitical weapon" in a standoff with Moldova, and pledged further support to help the pro-Western government weather the crisis.

Moldova has declared a state of emergency in the face of a severe gas crunch after Russian state-controlled giant Gazprom hiked prices for the impoverished country.

"We see attempts by Gazprom to put political pressure in return to lower the gas prices," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after meeting Moldova's Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita in Brussels.

"Gas is a commodity that's being bought and sold, sold and bought but it cannot be used as a geopolitical weapon."

The Kremlin has claimed the dispute is "absolutely commercial" despite fears Moscow is using its energy might to try to pull ex-Soviet Moldova back under its sway after Gavrilita vowed closer ties to the EU following elections in July.

The crisis in Moldova comes in the face of a global energy crunch that has left the EU scrambling to cope with higher prices.

But Borrell insisted "the price increase not just in Europe, but in the whole world is not in general terms the consequences of weaponisation of the gas supply, but in Moldova, yes, it is."

Brussels on Wednesday offered Moldova 60 million euros ($70 million) to help it cope in the face of the crisis.

Borrell called the grant a "first step", insisting it would go towards supporting the most vulnerable in Moldova and not "into Gazprom's pocket".

He pledged "resources and expertise" to help Moldova increase energy efficiency and diversify its supplies away from Russia.

Gavrilita welcomed the money but said her pro-Western administration "would like more technical assistance, expertise, political support".

Wedged between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova receives gas from Russia via its pro-Moscow separatist region of Transnistria and through Ukraine.

It signed a contract with EU member Poland for natural gas deliveries this week, in what the government hailed as "the first acquisition of gas from alternative sources in Moldova's history".

Moldova's contract with Gazprom ran out at the end of September. A deal has been reached for October but the Moldovan government said Moscow is sending far less gas to the country than usual.

Moldovan officials are currently in Saint Petersburg trying to negotiate a new contract with Gazprom.

Gavrilita told journalists that "there is progress in these negotiations".

Check out the latest DH videos:

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox