Moldovan natgas chief offers to take over Ukraine transit of Russian gas
CHISINAU, Dec 7 (Reuters) - The head of Moldova's national gas company proposed on Thursday that it take over the transport of Russian giant Gazprom's supplies through Ukraine if Kyiv decides against renewing a transit contract that runs out next year.
Vadim Ceban said Moldova would prefer to have the contract renewed, but his company, Moldovagaz, was in any event ready to assume control of gas transit through Ukraine to Moldova and beyond to other European countries.
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Gazprom controls a 50% plus one share in Moldovagaz, while Moldova's government owns 35.6% and 13% is held by the country's pro-Russian separatist enclave Transdniestria.
"The optimal situation for Moldova would be for Ukraine to renew the contract on Russian gas transit," Ceban told Vocea Bassarabiei television.
"If that doesn't happen, Moldovagaz can carry out transport of Gazprom gas through Ukrainian territory."
Ukraine's energy minister said in August that Kyiv had no intention of joining in talks to renew the contract. Russia has said it would consider extending the contract
Moldova, which has seen relations with Russia deteriorate sharply since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, receives no Russian gas and secures supplies from other European sources. It has received help in financing purchases from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Pro-European Moldovan President Maia Sandu has denounced Russia's war in Ukraine and accused Moscow of trying to oust her in a coup.
But the Transdniestria enclave relies on Gazprom's supplies and has accumulated debts of about $10 billion that Gazprom has not sought to collect.
Ceban said that if Moldovagaz assumed control of transit through Ukraine, Transdniestria would have to pay for the transit of gas it receives, currently 5.7 million cubic metres per day. (Reporting by Alexander Tanas; Editing by Ron Popeski and Jamie Freed)