Moldova needs plan to pay for gas, utility chief says, after Gazprom warning
CHISINAU, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Moldova's pro-Western government, facing warnings from Russian gas supplier Gazprom about non-payment on obligations, must work out a plan to pay for gas supplies as winter is fast approaching, the head of gas utility Moldovagaz said.
Vadim Ceban, speaking on TV8 on Thursday evening, said the ex-Soviet state had to pay for 53 million cubic metres (cbm) of gas to cover October requirements, but that figure would rise sharply next month.
"In November, with the cold weather, the volume of gas is to rise to 150 million cbm and we will have to think about how to pay for it," Ceban said.
Last week, Gazprom said it could shut off gas to Moldova completely unless all contractual obligations were met by Oct. 29, including settlement of a long-standing debt of about $709 million for past supplies.
Ceban said in early Ocotober that flows had already been cut at that time by 30%.
Moldova, wedged between Ukraine and Romania, is reliant on Russian gas and now pays for 50% of its supplies in advance with the rest settled later.
Gas prices have soared this year, in part because of the conflict in Ukraine, and Moldova's Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu has said the country has only allowed "small delays" in making its payments.
Under the terms of a five-year contract, Moldovagaz and Gazprom are due to agree by the beginning of November volumes of gas supplies for the following 12 months.
High inflation, particularly for energy, has triggered weekly street protests against pro-Western President Maia Sandu, who has denounced Russia's actions in Ukraine.
Sandu, elected by a landslide in 2020, has pledged to join the European Union and received considerable EU support. Her government has vowed to secure gas supplies from other sources.
"(Russian President Vladimir) Putin clearly hopes that when consumers see the rates and payments for gas they will choose a government more friendly to Russia," energy security analyst Sergiu Tofilat told Reuters.
"We will find other sources and if we can't make payments we will find ways to save." (Reporting by Alexander Tanas; Writing in Winnipeg by Ronald Popeski; Editing by Edmund Klamann)