The European Union's top diplomat has said that Russia is weaponizing its natural-gas supply to bully Moldova, one of Europe's poorest nations, as a gas dispute between Moscow and Chisinau continues.
Moldova declared a state of energetic 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.
Gazprom has extended the contract to the end of October, while raising the price to $790 per cubic meters from $550 last month.
"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," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a news conference on October 27 alongside Moldova's Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita in Brussels.
Russia has been threatening to cut off the gas supply to the impoverished ex-Soviet republic, which borders EU member Romania, at the end of the year if the existing contract is not extended by then.
Some observers say Moscow has boosted prices as reprisals against Moldova for electing pro-Western President Maia Sandu last year.
"In the case of Moldova, political characteristics have to be taken into account ... In the case of Moldova, it's a sharp (price) increase which was related with political problems, which requires our support," Borrell said.
The EU had pledged 60 million euros ($70 million) in aid to Moldova on October 27.
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 statements came as a second day of negotiations in a row in St Petersburg ended without an agreement between state-controlled Russian gas giant Gazprom and Moldova.
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.