CHISINAU (Reuters) – Moldova’s pro-Russian opposition leader called for snap presidential and parliamentary elections on Tuesday and told the pro-Western government to go to Moscow to negotiate cheaper natural gas from Russia as prices soar.
Ex-president Igor Dodon, who retains influence despite being under house arrest on treason and corruption charges he denies, made the comments a day after Moldova’s gas company said the gas price had risen 47% in August.
Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spînu told a briefing that Moldovagaz had asked Russia’s Gazprom to delay payment for natural gas in August, but had not yet received a reply.
Moldova buys its gas from gas giant Gazprom under a contract that was drawn up last year. The price fluctuates monthly and is calculated from the spot price for gas and oil depending on the season. Spot prices have soared this year.
“President Maia Sandu and Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita should set aside their pride and urgently head to Moscow to agree a lower price for gas like the leadership of Hungary… which pays a much better price than Moldova…,” Dodon said.
“Snap presidential and parliamentary elections should be organised and the new authorities… should reduce the import price several times and significantly reduce tariffs for end consumers,” he said.
Dodon, who lost re-election in November 2020, is being investigated over four criminal cases and faces up to 20 years in jail. He was detained in May in the former Soviet republic of 2.6 million people that applied for EU membership this year.
Spînu said the government was looking at three scenarios in which Gazprom could cut the supply of natural gas by 35%, 50% and 100%.
Gazprom could cut supply over a long-standing dispute over Moldovan gas debt, or if Moldova does not pay for gas it is consuming.
Spînu promised the government would do as much as it could to ensure Moldovans have adequate central heating this winter, if needed, by tapping different sources of energy.
The gas price has risen to $1,458.5 per 1,000 cubic metres this month from $643 in January.
(Reporting by Alexander Tanas; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Nick Macfie)