Talks with breakaway region fail to ease Moldova energy woes
CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — An electricity plant in a Moscow-backed breakaway region of Moldova will not resume supplying energy to the rest of the country after a meeting between Moldovan officials and representatives of the Transnistria region failed to produce an agreement Friday, authorities said.
The meetings held in Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, focused on a range of bilateral issues and had raised hopes of a breakthrough that would ease a severe energy crisis in one of Europe’s poorest countries.
But the talks moderated by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe did not yield any concrete results, including on resuming electricity supplies, Vitaly Ignatyev, the internationally unrecognized Transnistria government’s foreign minister, told reporters.
“Unfortunately, we have not yet come to a solution to any of the problems,” he said, adding that the parties planned to meet again before the end of this year.
The Kuciurgan plant in Transnistria, where Russia has around 1,500 troops based, stopped sending electricity to other parts of Moldova at the beginning of November.
Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Oleg Serebryan said after Friday’s talks that “additional negotiations will be needed” and that one of the government’s priorities is securing low prices “to protect our citizens and businesses from burdensome bills.”
“I must admit that our expectations are moderate,” he said.
The Kuciurgan power plant is operated by the country’s largest energy company, which was privatized in 2004 by Transnistrian authorities and later sold to a Russian state-owned company. Moldova doesn’t recognize the privatization, but it lost control of the plant after a civil war in 1992.
Transnistria’s decision to stop transmitting electricity outside the region came after Russia dramatically reduced natural gas exports to Moldova, which the landlocked country was entirely dependent on. The lost supplies are expected to exacerbate a winter energy crisis in the country of about 2.6 million people, where high prices could leave consumers scrambling to pay their bills.
Moldova’s energy vulnerability has been exposed in recent weeks after it suffered two major blackouts as a result of Russian strikes on Ukraine’s power grid. Moldova’s Soviet-era systems remain interconnected with Ukraine’s, which is what caused the shutdowns.
Moldova’s pro-Western president, Maia Sandu, called Moscow’s decision to cut gas supplies “political blackmail,” and accused the Kremlin of trying to push Moldova off its path toward joining the European Union. Moldova became an E.U. candidate in June, on the same day as Ukraine did.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has created concerns the conflict might spread into Moldova via Transnistria.
McGrath reported from Sighisoara, Romania.
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