Ukraine on October 29 sold its first commercial shipment of gas to neighboring Moldova, which says it has been driven to the brink by Moscow's decision to abruptly raise its price.
Moldova declared a state of emergency last week after its gas contract with Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom, the largest supplier of natural gas to Europe, expired at the end of last month, and the two sides failed to agree on details of a new long-term deal.
Russia has been threatening to cut off the gas supply to the impoverished ex-Soviet republic at the end of the year if the existing gas contract is not extended by then.
Ukraine's state energy firm Naftogaz said on October 29 that it had won a tender to supply 500,000 cubic meters of gas to Moldovan state company Energocom. It would also participate in future tenders.
"Naftogaz is ready to supply the required volumes of gas to Moldova," the Ukrainian company said in a statement, giving no information on the price of the agreed deal.
Gazprom has extended the contract with Moldova to the end of October, while raising the price to $790 per cubic meters from $550 last month.
The price rise prompted criticism from the European Union, which said that Russia was "weaponizing" gas supplies. Brussels offered Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, 60 million euros ($70 million) in emergency aid on October 27.
Moldova's Energocom said this week it had also bought one million cubic meters (mcm) of gas from Polish company PGNiG. The government has said it plans to buy around 5 mcm of gas by the end of the month.
Some observers say Moscow has boosted prices as reprisals against Moldova for electing pro-Western President Maia Sandu last year and rejecting Russia-backed incumbent Igor Dodon. Russia rejects the accusations, saying the hike is purely commercial, reflecting global markets.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a news conference on October 27 in Brussels that "in the case of Moldova, it's a sharp (price) increase which was related with political problems, which requires our support.".
"In global terms the price increases around the world are not a consequence of weaponization of the gas supply, but in the case of Moldova, yes it is," Borrell said alongside Moldova's Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita.
Gavrilita highlighted the importance of EU support for Moldova.
"We believe that the next few weeks are crucial and we think that Moldova's friends should help us to get alternative supplies," Gavrilita said.
The Kremlin said on October 29 that Gazprom is open to discussions and seeking solutions in the gas talks with Moldova, although a second day of negotiations in St Petersburg ended the previous day without an agreement.
In Berlin, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on October 29 that Germany is observing the gas dispute between Moldova and Russia with "concern."
Russia has repeatedly been criticized for setting prices according to a country's political allegiance. Belarus, a close Moscow ally, recently negotiated a significantly lower price for 2022.