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It's that time of year again, when Gazprom execs look at earnings forecasts and inevitably put the squeeze on their foreign customers with a lot of talk about "bringing our prices into line with international market prices" and other euphemisms for price hikes. But RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service says officials in Moldova got an added surprise when Russia's enormous gas monopoly demanded that they pay a $42 million debt for gas supplies to the breakaway region of Transdniester.

It is worth noting that many observers were expecting a meeting anytime now of the group that has pioneered international efforts to settle the Transdniester dispute, the "5+2," which includes Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE, the EU, the United States, and the Moldovans and Transdniestrians. But even Moscow has generally argued for settling the "frozen conflict" in Transdniester before tackling the debt issue. So what's the hurry on that portion of the Gazprom debt (which is said to total around $1.5 billion, including penalties)?

It just so happens that OSCE special envoy Heikke Talvitie arrived in Moldova on July 21 as part of a three-day push to bridge the Chisinau-Tiraspol gap.

And let's just say the prospect of picking up the tab for separatist deadbeats wouldn't go over well with most Moldovans outside of Transdniester. Which could complicate Chisinau's preparations for any 5+2 meeting.

-- Andy Heil

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