Ukraine’s neighbor accused of ‘extortion’
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused Moldova of using its aspirations to join the EU as an “extortion” tactic in talks on Russian gas.
“It’s essentially extortion: if you don’t do this, we’ll join the European [Union] quicker. And if you do, we’ll still join, but at a slower pace. Those are the signals I’m getting,” Lavrov told Russia’s NTV channel on Thursday.
He added that Brussels and Washington “are clearly trying to turn Moldova into a second Ukraine” by “shaping the country in an anti-Russian way.”
Moldovan President Maia Sandu denied using the prospects of joining the EU as leverage against Moscow. She said on Friday that Russia could use “gas and other tools” to pressure Moldova.
Moldova, which relies heavily on Russian gas, has racked up an estimated $709 million in debts and overdue payments, according to Gazprom.
On Friday, the European Commission recommended that Moldova be granted candidate status, a first step in the lengthy process of becoming an EU member. The decision could be finalized at an EU meeting next week.
Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Nicu Popescu reiterated this week that integration with the EU remains “a priority.”
The official added that Moldova was studying whether it should leave the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a regional bloc made up of former Soviet countries, including Russia.