Moldova will uphold deal with Gazprom to prevent crises -minister
CHISINAU, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Moldova will uphold its gas supply contract with Russia's Gazprom in order to ward off crises over power prices in the country and hardship in its breakaway Transdniestria region, Energy Minister Victor Parlicov said on Thursday.
Moldova, wedged between Ukraine and European Union member Romania, stopped using supplies from Gazprom in December 2022 and, with EU financial help, now relies on Western sources.
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Gazprom's daily supply of 5.7 million cubic metres is less than required by contract and this is used solely by Transdniestria, a pro-Russian enclave on Moldova's eastern border which declared itself independent as the Soviet Union was collapsing,
Transdniestria, which has no international recognition, depends on Gazprom's shipments to endure the winter and to supply a thermal plant that produces, at cheaper than market rates, 80 percent of the power used in the rest of Moldova.
"There are different options and we can manage without power from Transdniestria. But we would have to be prepared for several crises at once," Parlicov told Vocea Basarabiei (the Voice of Bessarabia) television.
"That means higher electricity prices here at home and a possible humanitarian crisis within months in Transdniestria. Let's not forget that nearly 300,000 people live there and they are almost all Moldovan citizens."
Moldova, he said, had no intention of breaking the contract, but had to be prepared for Gazprom to exercise its legal right to stop honouring it.
Transdniestria has paid nothing for its supplies of Russian gas for some time, but Gazprom has not insisted on payment.
Moldovan officials estimate Transdniestria's debts for gas arrears at about $10 billion.
Moldova has put its own debts to Gazprom at $8.6 million on the basis of an international audit - a fraction of the $709 million demanded by the Russian oil and gas group.
Vadim Ceban, head of Moldovagaz, a Gazprom subsidiary which oversees gas distribution in the country, said on Thursday that the total debt as established by Moldova's authorities still had to be approved by his company's shareholders. (Writing by Alexander Tanas, Editing by Ron Popeski and Grant McCool)