Moldova’s gas importer and distributor Moldovagaz has appealed for direct government aid in an attempt to avoid Russia withholding gas deliveries to the country.

The political situation continues to heat up in the region following the relocation of Russian military personnel and equipment to the country’s borders with Ukraine.

On Monday, Russian monopoly Gazprom told Moldovagaz to pay arrears for gas that it was delivered in October and November.

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Gazprom — which is a 50% shareholder in Moldovagaz — told the company it has 48 hours to arrange payment or face the halt in new gas deliveries.

Moldovagaz says it has not received sufficient funds from customers in Moldova as it had to buy Russian gas at an average spot price of $800 per thousand cubic metres in October, while supplying it to customers at the government-approved price of $150 per thousand cubic metres.

Speaking in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau on Monday, Moldovagaz executive board chairman Vadim Cheban was quoted as saying the company expects the government to make urgent arrangements to assist Moldovagaz in paying the estimated $70 million to Gazprom.

Earlier in November, Moldova barely avoided a halt in Russian gas supplies, with Moldovagaz signing a last-minute five-year gas supply agreement with Gazprom at the end of October.

Moldova, together with the southern part of its neighbour Ukraine, are generally viewed by political analysts in Moscow, Kiev and Washington as potential targets for a possible Russian military attack later this winter.

Russian military build-up

According to Bloomberg, the US has shared intelligence, including maps, with European allies that shows a build-up of Russian troops and artillery to prepare for a rapid, large-scale push into Ukraine from multiple locations, backed by air support.

The information lays out a scenario where Russian troops would cross into Ukraine from Crimea, the Russian border and from Belarus, with about 100 battalion tactical groups — potentially around 100,000 soldiers — deployed.

Previously, analysts have pointed out that the attack from Crimea might target the southern part of Ukraine, cutting access to the Black Sea and permitting Russian troops to reach the unrecognised state of Transnistria.

Transnistria, which lies across the Dniester River along the Ukrainian border, earlier declared its intention to join Russia, with Gazprom supplying gas to the state for free for more than a decade.

The state, that is sometime referred to as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, is recognised internationally as part of Moldova.

Destabilisation concerns

Analysts in Kiev, quoted by Radio Free Europe, have expressed fears that European countries and Ukraine might witness internal destabilisation and political disagreements because of high energy prices later this winter.

This, in turn, could weaken a joint response if the Kremlin decides to proceed with the invasion, as Russia is still viewed as a key gas supplier to Europe.

Although the Kremlin has strongly denied suggestions it is preparing the attack, the Russian stock market and its currency, the rouble, have been falling this week as investors offloaded their positions.