The concern Gazprom – the energy branch of the Russian imperialism – started a gas war against the Republic of Moldova, drastically reducing the gas supplies to the Moldovan state. Since October, Gazprom has cut the gas supplies by 30% not only to Chisinau but also to the Transnistrian region. Also, from October 24, the Kuchurgan power plant that is politically controlled by Moscow cut the electricity supplies to the right side of the Nistru from 70% to 27%. The announcement was made by the pro-Moscow Transnistrian leader Vadim Krasnoselsky who argued that the amount of natural gas supplied to Transnistria was reduced. Simultaneously, Tiraspol declared a state of economic emergency in the controlled area, specifying that the electrical energy produced by the Kuchurgan power plant will be directed mostly to the inhabitants of the region and the volume of energy supplied to the right side of the Nistru will be therefore limited. If gas supplies to the left side of the Nistru are fully stopped, the Republic of Moldova will remain without electricity from the Kuchurgan power plant.
Undertones of supply of gas to Tiraspol
These concerted actions by Gazprom and the separatist regime in Tiraspol generated suspicions and concern among different experts and politicians. This way, the Director of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, Velina Tchakarova, in an interview for Digi24 warns about the long-term Russian plans that do not stop at the east and south of Ukraine and about the possibility of Transnistria and the separatist republics in Georgia being used for a military escalation and for creating political instability in the Republic of Moldova and Georgia – two states with pro-European aspirations. At the same time, former Transnistrian leader, Igor Smirnov, in an interview said he is convinced that Russia will not leave Transnistria without gas and will find a solution to supply the region with energy.
On the other hand, the head of the so-called Transnistrian government, Alexandr Rozenberg, unlike the earlier practices of interacting with Chisinau, this time hurried to state for the public opinion that Transnistria in this situation showed a partner attitude and tried to fulfill the obligations assumed by the electric energy contract but didn’t have another way out than to reduce the supplies of electricity owing to the shortage of natural gas. He noted that Transnistria now receives “blue fuel” through the north line of the gas pipeline and also through the Turkish Stream. Anyway, all the gas supplies go through Moldova and Transnistria cannot receive gas without the participation of Moldovagaz. “We tried to take gas directly. There was such a scenario. We took appropriate preparatory measures and even performed trial pumping. But Moldovagaz regrettably blocks all these actions,” said the premier of the self-proclaimed Transnistrian republic, trying to camouflage the political decision with commercial reasons.
Threat of humanitarian crisis on left side
The critical situation on the gas market in the Republic of Moldova worsens further owing to Gazprom’s threats to fully stop gas supplies to Moldova over an alleged debt of over US$700 million that Chisinau refuses to assume without an international audit. If this threat is put into practice, the right side of the Nistru will remain without gas. It will be able to purchase gas from other sources but the purchase price will be exorbitant. Chisinau can buy gas from Romania and from the European market through the Iasi-Ungheni-Chisinau gas pipeline that can be connected during several hours. Furthermore, Chisinau stored in Romania and Ukraine amounts of gas that can satisfy the needs during 3-4 weeks in winter. But the provision with electricity remains the biggest problem of Chisinau as the energy connections with Ukraine are affected by the shortage of power in the neighboring state due to the continuous Russian attacks on the Ukrainian energy infrastructure. Internal power production in Moldova, through local thermoelectric plants, covers less than 40% of the consumption, while the supplies from Romania for now can technically cover only 30% of the necessary volume.
On October 24, the reduction of the flow of electrical energy from the Kuchurgan power plant caused a shortage of energy in the morning hours, when consumption grew suddenly, and this shortage was covered with emergency supplies from Romania’s energy system. This enabled to avoid the disconnection of consumers from the network. But this remedy to avoid the energy collapse is impossible in the case of Transnistria, which, if Gazprom halts gas supplies to Moldova during winter, will experience a humanitarian catastrophe. Without gas, the Kuchurgan power plan has coal that is enough for only two months if it works at full capacity and in the period will be able to supply electricity and heat only to the population of the Transnistrian region. An additional flow of refugees could this way appear on the right side of the Nistru, this time of Moldovan citizens from Transnistria.
... minus smuggling that fueled separatist regime
In such circumstances, the Moldovan authorities announced the conditions in which they will accept to supply gas bought from the European market to consumers in the Transnistrian region. The gas will be supplied to the left side of the Nistru only if Tiraspol pays in advance. Here, it should be taken into account the fact that the war in Ukrainian substantially decreased the smuggling flows through the Transnistrian segment of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border that was closed by the Ukrainian army in a move to counteract the danger coming from the Russian army that stays illegally in Transnistria. This way, the contraband flow that fueled the separatist regime in Transnistria is considerably compromised and Chisinau, for the first time since the proclaiming of Moldova’s independence, fully controls the inflows and outflows through the western segment of the separatist region. But this collapse of the illegal business of separatist Transnistria paradoxically devalues the Transnistrian leaders’ determination to keep peace on the Nistru River.
Transnistria engaged to destabilize whole Moldova
Many experts considered that Moscow will not interrupt the gas supplies to the Republic of Moldova so as not to destabilize the situation in the separatist Transnistria. But these forecasts didn’t come true. The regime in Moscow easily sacrifices the interests of the Russian citizens in Transnistria, as it actually does in any region of Russia, indifferently turning these into cannon fodder for the sake of its imperial interests. The developments in Ukraine show that Putin tries to destroy the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainians as a nation, regardless of the costs. The reality that Transnistria was sacrificed by Moscow with the aim of causing economic and social destabilization in the Republic of Moldova shows that the Kremlin intends to create a maximum tension zone on the Nistru so as to distract more Ukrainian forces from the eastern front. We can easily presume that a Russian-Transnistrian military provocation can be staged to achieve this goal.
The big economic and social problems experienced by the Republic of Moldova are amplified by political destabilization actions supported by streets protests organized by the Shor grouping. Encouraged and even incited by the Moscow propaganda, these protests increasingly disseminate anti-West, anti-American and anti-Romanian slogans in the public sphere. Behind the protests staged by Shor, the body of the fifth column of the Russian imperialism in Moldova – from Communist-Socialists to other descendants from this political camp, who disguised themselves as pro-Europeans on a temporary basis with Moscow’s consent, contracts its ranks and gets ready for a decisive attack on the pro-European government. They all bank on the continuous worsening of the social conditions of large sections of the population, caused by the destabilizing economic policies of Moscow amid the acute shortage of cohesion and mobilization inside the Moldovan pro-European parties. All these revanchist political forces hope to return to power in Chisinau as soon as possible so as to put into practice Moscow’s plan to turn the Republic of Moldova into a pro-Russian enclave in the back of Ukraine.
Instead of retroactive policy
In response to these challenges, the pro-European government in Chisinau for now reacts mostly with retroactive measures, leaving the initiative to the opponents from the camp of the pro-Russian opposition. This is a harmful practice that can lead to the reversion of the European course of the Republic of Moldova. Against such a background, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, in the first parliamentary summit of the Crimea Platform in Croatia’s Zagreb, which involved Moldovan Parliament Speaker Igor Grosu, launched the initiative of creating a humanitarian and diplomatic platform similar to that of Crimea, which would contribute to freeing other territories that were once occupied by the Russian Federation – Transnistria and Abkhazia. This is an initiative worth being examined with due seriousness by the official Chisinau whose putting into practice would mean taking over of the political initiative by the pro-European government against Russia’s increasingly aggressive policy, presenting also an appropriate diplomatic response to the energy war that is being waged by Moscow against the Republic of Moldova.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.