Aug 24, 2022
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Why Moscow decided to give Moldova an indulgence

Although Moldova took a tough anti-Russian stance in the Ukrainian conflict, Gazprom nevertheless made concessions to Chisinau and postponed the next payment for gas. The generous gesture is addressed not to President Maia Sandu, but to ordinary Moldovans. However, the State Duma warns that if the Russian army approaches Moldova from Odessa, the conversation with Sandu will go in a completely different direction.

Gazprom agreed to exceptionally postpone until September 1 the term for payment of the advance payment by Moldovagaz for the August deliveries of Russian fuel. The Russian energy company expects that in the future Moldova will fulfill contracts in full and on time. This was announced on Tuesday by the official representative of Gazprom, Sergey Kupriyanov, on the air of the Rossiya 24 TV channel. At the same time, he recalled that Moldovagaz was able to pay off Gazprom only for July deliveries.

At the same time, Chisinau asks to postpone the payment of the mentioned advance even later – until the end of the fourth quarter. Recall that the repayment of the debt for fuel and timely payments were one of the main conditions on which Gazprom in October last year agreed to extend the contract with Moldova for the next five years.

In early August, the authorities, represented by the Moldovan National Energy Regulatory Agency, allowed Moldovagaz to raise fuel tariffs for citizens. However, the head of the Moldovan energy company, Vadim Cheban, has already complained that the tariff proposed by the authorities still does not cover costs and will lead to a further increase in debts.

“For Gazprom, as a large company under the jurisdiction of Moscow, and for Moscow, as the capital of a mighty power, there are only internal motives for the decision to allow Moldova to postpone the next payment. In my opinion, this motive is good will,” Alexander Shcherba, former chairman of the Supreme Council of the proclaimed Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, told the VZGLYAD newspaper.

This is an example that Moscow is still ready to build good, mutually beneficial relations within the CIS, which includes Moldova, the former speaker believes. “Moscow is ready to build relations not only on the basis of obtaining its own profit, but also on the principles of good neighborliness. But such a friendly gesture is by no means addressed to the current rulers of Moldova, who have taken a one-sided, pro-Western position on the events in neighboring Ukraine,” Shcherba is convinced.

According to the politician, Moscow’s friendly gesture is addressed to the majority of ordinary Moldovans.

“It’s just that in Moscow they understand: if the inhabitants of Western European countries can afford to tighten their belt, then in Moldova such an option is unlikely. Here, a good half of the citizens live on the edge of the poverty line. The main part of family expenses falls on utilities and energy costs. Prices are approaching European ones, but incomes do not stand up to scrutiny,” Shcherba complains.

Russia decided to postpone payment so as not to once again aggravate relations with Moldova and thereby keep President Maia Sandu from other unfriendly steps in an area that is not directly related to energy resources, Konstantin Zatulin, the first deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, hints. “If we hadn’t met Moldova halfway in the gas issue, I’m not sure that it would have been beneficial to us. We still keep Moldova on a gas leash. If we break the thread, it is unlikely that the situation will turn in our favor. Patience and work will grind everything, ”the interlocutor notes.

Although the current Moldovan authorities took a tough anti-Russian position on the Ukrainian issue, Moscow made a goodwill gesture in the interests of ordinary Moldovans, who for the most part are not anti-Russian. As Interfax noted, a poll conducted in April by the IMAS agency showed that 72% of Moldovan citizens oppose the accession of the republic to the sanctions against Russia, 43.6% blamed the situation in Ukraine on the West, NATO and the Kyiv regime – and only 5% opposed for a complete break in relations between Moldova and Russia.

“Now in Russia, many commentators are vainly demanding decisive action from the authorities, suggesting destroying relations with both countries,” Zatulin said. “But you shouldn’t quarrel with everyone at the same time. If there is an opportunity, we need to delay the rupture of relations, reach more serious geopolitical positions, including during the NVO, and when we have trump cards in our hands, raise the issue on principle.”

Let’s first move in the direction of Odessa and Nikolaev, the deputy suggests. “We are buying time. If the special operation continues to develop in the south of Ukraine, then we will build our further relations with Moldova from a position of greater confidence than at the moment,” Zatulin explained.

In the meantime, protest activity in Moldova will continue to grow with the approach of winter, the situation in the economy in the republic is aggravating, the deputy states. According to Zatulin, at some stage this may provoke Sanda into sharp political actions against the unrecognized Transnistria and autonomous Gagauzia in order to divert public attention from the lack of heat and light. As Shcherba recalled in turn, last week Sandu sent police special forces to Gagauzia – after mass rallies were held in this autonomous republic, the participants of which demanded that Chisinau immediately begin negotiations on reconciliation with Moscow.

Restless in the capital of the republic. Chisinau Mayor Ivan Ceban challenged Sandu on Tuesday by introducing a new party, the National Alternative Movement, which will be in opposition to the pro-presidential Action and Solidarity Party (PDS). “If we do not intervene in the situation, then the current government will bring the country to bankruptcy,” Cheban announced. Note that the mayor of the capital intends to attack the ruling party in its own field – Cheban’s “National Alternative Movement” positions itself as a pro-European party.

On the other hand, due to the harsh criticism of Maia Sandu, the populist Shor Party (named after its leader, businessman and politician Ilan Shor) is gaining points. At the moment when the president was hosting a delegation from the United States, Shor supporters brought to the rally at the Sandu residence a basket of dried dung-dung, which is used to heat stoves in Moldovan villages. They chanted: “Down with the government!”, “No price increase!”. Oppositionists from Shor held another rally near the administration building of Sandu on Tuesday. The stated reason was the demand to release from custody the head of the parliamentary faction of the party, Marina Tauber (accused of fraud in financing Shor), but the real reason for the indignation is dissatisfaction with the course of President Sandu and Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilitsa.

The protests that are now taking place almost daily in the center of Chisinau near the Sandu residence are divided into political and domestic ones, explains Shcherba. “At the household level, the idea is now becoming popular not to pay for consumed energy resources at all, because the tariffs are unaffordable for most Moldovans. Such a refusal, a boycott, is a vivid example of the attitude of the majority of citizens towards the current government of Natalia Gavrilitsa, the political elite, which has taken a tough course towards European integration,” the Pridnestrovian expert believes.

As for the new party of the mayor of Chisinau, Shcherba is not sure that one political force will be able to mobilize protest moods. “Sandu understands this. It is trying to remove from the political field any strong players capable of accumulating the healthy forces of society around them. Now the President of Moldova regularly holds talks with the heads of Romanian special services. As far as is known, they are talking about just this – how to clean up the political field of Moldova step by step. I hope these plans will not lead to civil confrontation,” the source said. Shcherba considers the aforementioned police raid in Gagauzia to be an example of such a cleansing attempt.

The mayor of Chisinau most likely chose the wrong moment to create a new party, Zatulin believes, since its prospects are bleak. “Now inside Moldova is a period of turbulence. Everything is not obvious: the stability of Sandu’s position, the victory or defeat of her opponents – everything hangs in the balance. But in any case, they are actively working against Russia on the Moldovan front. Pay attention to the frequency of visits to Chisinau by politicians of various levels from the European Union, the USA and Romania. There is a big game going on, and we are playing it the way we understand,” the Russian parliamentarian concluded.

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