energy giants

Kremlin denies political blackmail of Moldova in gas talks

epa09507231 View of the booth of Russian Gazprom Company during the international specialised exhibition ?Import Substitution in the Gas Industry? at the 10th St. Petersburg International Gas Forum in St.Petersburg, Russia, 05 October 2021. SPIGF 2021 runs from 05 to 08 October 2021. EPA-EFE/ANATOLY MALTSEV

MOSCOW, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The Kremlin on Wednesday denied a media report which suggested that Russian energy giant Gazprom was using gas talks with Moldova to try to extract political concessions and said the negotiations were purely commercial.

Moldova’s gas contract with Gazprom expired at the end of September, and the two have failed to agree on a new price and other details of a new deal since then. Moldova, which is holding fresh talks with Gazprom on Wednesday, declared a state of emergency last week.

Gazprom has said it will suspend gas exports to Moldova if it is not paid for previous supplies and no contract for December is signed, the Interfax news agency quoted it as saying on Saturday.

The Financial Times, citing unnamed people briefed on the talks, reported on Tuesday that Gazprom had offered Moldova a cheaper gas deal in exchange for it adjusting its free trade deal with the European Union and delaying energy market reforms agreed with Brussels.

When asked about the report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that politics did not factor in the talks with Moldova.

“No. There are no political moments here and there cannot be any. These are purely commercial negotiations,” Peskov told reporters.

“There’s a demand for gas, there’s a commercial offer, there’s a proposed discount, and there’s a problem with an accumulated debt (on the Moldovan side),” added Peskov.

Moldova has balked at Gazprom’s price of $790 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, more than double what it used to pay. Moldova owes Gazprom $709 million for previous gas supplies, Interfax quoted Gazprom as saying.

Moldova, currently ruled by the pro-Western government of President Maia Sandu, was one of the Soviet Union’s 15 constituent republics and has been at the centre of a political tug of influence between Russia and the West since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

The Kremlin’s critics accuse Russia of using energy as a political weapon to drive its wider geopolitical agenda, something Moscow has always denied.

Moldova bought a million cubic meters of natural gas from Poland on Monday in a trial purchase to try to diversify the country’s energy supplies after talks with Russia failed to reach an agreement last week.

The gas emergency is a test for Moldova’s pro-Western administration, which has asked the European Union and neighbouring Ukraine for help to tide it over during its negotiations with Moscow. (Reporting by Dmitry Antonov/Tom Balmforth/Maria Kiselyova; editing by Andrew Osborn)


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