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27 Oct, 2021 13:20

Russia denies state energy giant made secret offer to end Moldova’s gas crisis in return for country turning its back on EU deal

Russia denies state energy giant made secret offer to end Moldova’s gas crisis in return for country turning its back on EU deal

Moscow has categorically denied reports that Russian state energy firm Gazprom offered Moldova a sweetheart deal on discounted gas in exchange for political concessions, as the Eastern European nation struggles with shortages.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected claims published in the UK’s Financial Times alleging Chișinău was told to amend a free-trade agreement with Brussels in exchange for favorable energy prices.

“There was no political angle and it is not possible for there to be one,” he told reporters, insisting that discussions with Gazprom “are purely commercial negotiations.” According to the spokesman, “there is a demand, a commercial offer has been made, there is a proposed discount, and there is also the issue of accumulated debts."

Talks between officials in the former Soviet Republic and the Russian state energy giant collapsed last week as the two sides failed to come to a deal over pricing, which has shot up amid shortages across much of Western Europe. Unless a new agreement is secured, deliveries of energy supplies will cease on December 1, and have already been reduced, sparking price rises and forcing Chișinău to declare a state of emergency.

Also on rt.com Russia could offer extra gas to Western Europe as consumers see energy bills skyrocket amid squeeze on supplies, Kremlin reveals

On Tuesday, the Financial Times alleged that Gazprom had said it would shift its position on price if Moldova “adjusts its free-trade deal with the EU and delays energy market reforms agreed with Brussels.” Citing unnamed 'sources,' the report claimed that the Kremlin was seeking to exert pressure on the new government, led by President Maia Sandu and widely considered to be more open to closer ties with the West than her predecessor.

The country struck a deal with Poland earlier this week, representing the first time Moldova has bought gas from anywhere other than Russia since its independence from the Soviet Union. According to the government, the move will “test the possibility of importing gas from alternative sources and balance the low pressure in the natural gas supply system.”

However, only one million cubic meters have been purchased, a fraction of the 1.1 billion that it buys from Russia each year, while analysts point out that Moldova is likely to pay more for the gas to Poland than the Russian firm is asking for under the terms of a new deal. The government says it will continue talks with Gazprom in hopes of securing a “fair” price.

Gazprom has seen demand for gas skyrocket in recent weeks and, according to Peskov, has taken steps to prepare to increase output to Western Europe. In some areas, the cost of supplies has shot up by as much as 250%, with winter on the way. Moldova, however, says it is unrealistic to expect it to pay more for gas, which is vital to its agriculture-driven economy.

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