Russian state controlled gas giant Gazprom has backed down from its threat last week to halt gas supplies to Moldova that flow via Ukraine.

In a statement released on Monday, Gazprom said deliveries will not stop, because it had received payment from Moldovan gas importer and distributor Moldovagaz for volumes supplied in early November.

Gazprom added that the payment covers the gas that Moldovagaz opted to have stored temporarily in Ukraine — a decision that Gazprom reportedly had not endorsed.

Last week’s threat was regarded by some political observers as another attempt by the Russian government to help escalate tensions in Moldova, which has seen several protests recently against steeply rising energy costs.

EU membership

Moldova lies between NATO member Romania and war-torn Ukraine and was granted European candidate status in June after the pro-Western government — which replaced a pro-Russian president in elections in 2020 — applied for EU membership in March.

Russian troops are already stationed in the breakaway pro-Russian region of Transdniestria, which claimed independence from Moldova in 1991, though the claim has not been acknowledged internationally.

Moldova receives 5.7 million cubic metres per day of gas from Russia via Ukraine, but has to divert more than 69% of the volumes to Transdniestria in line with demands from the breakaway region’s government, Moldovagaz executive chairman Vadim Cheban claimed in a social network post.

The volumes sent to Transdniestria are used for a major gas-fired power station build during the Soviet era that supplies electricity to Transdniestria and to Moldova, and the 69% share of the imports leaves a shortfall for Molodovagaz customers.

However, Cheban said that despite the Moldovan government agreeing to supply such a high share of the imported gas, authorities in Transdniestria have reduced electricity supplies outside the breakway region, forcing Moldovan authorities to arrange alternative — and expensive — energy imports from Europe.

The row over power supplies from Transdniestria has heightened tensions with Moldova, as the breakaway region has for years avoided paying Moldovagaz for volumes bought from Gazprom, with more than $8 billion of payments now outstanding, according to reports in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau.

Tariff disparity

Cheban said that the money saved by not paying for the gas supplies has apparently enabled the Transdniestria authorities to sell gas to customers in the breakaway region at a rate about one-thirtieth of the price paid by customers in Moldova.

However, he added that he hoped Moldova’s gas prices could be lowered later this winter, in line with an anticipated decline in Russian gas prices.

In April, several terrorist attacks against government buildings were reported in Transdniestria, just days after a Russian general announced that the country’s military aims to capture southern Ukraine to secure direct land access to the breakaway region.