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Eastern Express 17.11

Moldova’s pro-Western government is under relentless pressure from Russia. The country is in an extremely difficult energy situation and the public took to the streets in protests against the government.

TVP World’s report on Moldova attempts to find out whether Russia is likely to succeed in pushing Molodova towards the war.

Last month Moldovan president Maia Sandu supported granting law enforcement wider authority to repress public demonstrations that she claimed were destabilizing the nation and seeking to appoint a pro-Russian government. In recent weeks thousands of people have flocked to the street and even pitched tents in front of Sandu’s house and the Parliament. Protesters called to overthrow the pro-Western administration and express their rage over rising costs.

Sandu requested the government to change the law to give the enforcement authorities additional powers but she did not say what those powers would entail. The government has engaged in a diplomatic conflict with Russia which resulted in a 40 percent cut in deliveries of Russian natural gas hitting Moldova’s ability to provide sufficient electricity for its 2.5 million people.

Gazprom has reduced its natural gas supply to Moldova as of October 1, 2022, to less than 40 percent below the country’s gas consumption. Moldova had previously extended its long-standing gas supply contract with Gazprom out of concern for the country’s energy security, but it seems that security is an elusive target when you’re dealing with Gazprom.

Russia’s recent missile strikes against Ukraine’s power grid also targeted facilities critical to Moldova’s energy security, since the country obtains much of its power from Ukraine.

Moldova is, in practice, completely dependent on gas supplies from Russia, and its near-bankrupt financial situation, coupled with the current energy crisis and spikes in the price of energy carriers, makes the country effectively defenceless against Russian blackmail.

To make matters worse, during the recent attacks against Ukraine, Russian missiles flew across Moldovan territory to reach their targets.

And now, several thousand protesters denouncing Moldova’s pro-Western leaders are marching through the state’s capital almost every week. Thousands decry steep price hikes, particularly with respect to gas bought from Russia. There are voices calling for the resignation of President Maia Sandu and her government.

The protests, organised by the party of exiled opposition politician Ilan Shor, underscore the most serious political challenge to Sandu since her landslide election win in 2020 on a pro-European and anti-corruption platform. Sandu and her government, backed by a big parliamentary majority, appear to be in no direct danger – if we assume normal democratic procedures are used. Yet when you’re leading what is one of Europe’s poorest countries, wedged between Ukraine and Romania, at a time of heightened tensions resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, other risks may also appear.


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