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Russia threatens to cut gas supplies to Ukraine's neighbor, Moldova

A Gazprom office in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian energy company said it could cut off the flow of gas to Western-friendly Moldova unless it settles its bills. File Photo by Anatoly Maltsev/EPA-EFE
A Gazprom office in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian energy company said it could cut off the flow of gas to Western-friendly Moldova unless it settles its bills. File Photo by Anatoly Maltsev/EPA-EFE

Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Russian energy company Gazprom said Tuesday it would cut off the supply of natural gas to Moldova, a candidate to join the European Union, for neglecting its payment commitments.

Gazprom said in a statement published by Russian news agency Tass that it could exercise the right to completely halt the flow of natural gas to Moldova by Oct. 20 due to the "gross violation" of an agreement to settle outstanding debt that Gazprom did not disclose.

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"Further on, any requests of the Moldovan side anticipating changes in contract terms will be formalized only as appropriate addenda to the contract," the company stated.

Moldova is among the poorest countries in the region and is heavily dependent on Russia for its natural gas. Sharing a border with Ukraine, the Russian energy company has made repeated energy threats against the pro-Western government in Moldova.

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Russia is accused of using its vast natural resources for political leverage over the European community. With war raging in Ukraine, Russia has only upped the ante by threats to cut off the region's supply of natural gas.

Those supplies are sharply lower because of the geopolitical row over Russia's twin Nord Stream natural gas pipeline system through the Baltic Sea. Gazprom shut off one strand of the system ostensibly for maintenance and Western sanctions on the second artery means it was never put in service.

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Making matters worse, a series of detonations along the pipeline last week resulted in further setbacks for the infrastructure and sent a vast plume of the potent greenhouse gas methane to the sea surface.

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Europe, however, may be making gains in its efforts to reduce its dependency on Russia. Members of the EU during the weekend announced the launch of a new natural gas pipeline between Greece and Bulgaria, a pipeline that could lessen the Balkan region's dependence on Russian supplies.

The $235 million pipeline will connect Bulgaria to both the existing Southern Gas Corridor and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline. It could also bring alternative supplies from Azerbaijan to countries in southeastern and central Europe, including Moldova and Ukraine.

Moldova signed an application to join the European Union shortly after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in late February.

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