Attack on Moldova. How Kremlin Weaponised Gas to Fight against Pro-Western Authorities

Wednesday, 2 November 2022 — , European Pravda

The US ambassador to Moldova made a reassuring statement this week. According to American intelligence, there are no signs pointing to a threat of an attack by Russia on Moldova.

However, the attack is already there but in a hybrid form.

We could see it during anti-government protests in Moldova, financed artificially and externally, without even hiding it.

On November 1, new pressure on Moldova began.

In an attempt to "break" the pro-Western government there, Russia cut off gas to Moldova - more precisely, half of the usual volume.

Meanwhile, Russian puppets in Transnistria completely stopped the electricity supply to Moldova.

Russia systematically prepared for this move in advance. They organised "street outrage" with the demand to re-elect the parliament and the president. It is already clear that FSB takes care of this part of the hybrid attack on Moldova. A journalistic investigation even found out the names of the officers.


"If you won't love us, we will cut off gas"

Everybody in Moldova understands that this winter will not pass without a full-fledged energy crisis. They had known that long before the Russian airstrikes on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

Exactly one year ago, in October and November 2021, Ukraine and a warm autumn helped keep the Moldovan energy system afloat. The gas contract with Russia was extended but with an option to terminate it anytime.

The Kremlin again started testing the strength of the Moldovan energy system in early autumn 2022. In October, it reduced gas supply by 30% of the contracted volume. A couple of weeks ago, through its puppets - the government of unrecognised Transnistria - publicly warned to cut the gas supply by 40% in November.

And in fact, since November 1, gas has been cut in half. It means Moldova also lost its main source of power.

Losing gas and power simultaneously, even at the beginning of the winter season, looks like a "perfect storm."

Over the years, the Kremlin has polished up its ability to wage hybrid wars. In Moldova, it has everything for this.

And, of course, the Kremlin's favourite trump card is energy.

First, until the end of 2021 – Moldova was 100% dependent on the Russian Federation for gas. Only in recent years they decided to build a gas pipeline to Romania, which, however, was not in use until 2022.

Secondly, Moldova is insanely dependent on Russia also for power. After the 1992 war on the river Dniester, the two power plants of Moldova remained in Transnistria, occupied by Russia. For over 30 years, Chișinău had bought electricity from the separatist regime, effectively sponsoring it.

At the same time, for 30 years, Chișinău has not developed its own energy infrastructure. It was more convenient to leave everything as it is and make additional money on energy money laundering with Transnistria.

As a result, this sunny country with good prospects for building renewable energy capacities practically has neither "sun" nor "wind" in its energy balance.

It is essential to note that we cannot call Russia's action in the energy system of Moldova blackmail. Since blackmail involves certain requirements that are non-existent in this case, this is a purely punitive action. "You don't love us. That's why we cut off your gas and power."

Ride out the "perfect storm"

However, November 1 was hardly a good day for the Russians to plan this energy attack. Moldovan citizens can still enjoy gas and power in their homes thanks to the last year Chișinău's job on diversification mechanisms. They have managed to get prepared better than in the previous 30 years.

Considering the gas shortage, the government and "Moldovagaz" had to decide which part of these volumes would remain with Tiraspol and which would go to Chisinau. The decision was as follows: 2.3 million cubic meters stay in Transnistria (with about 300,000 residents), 3.4 million go to the government-controlled territory (about 2.3 million residents).

You may ask: why would they give so much gas to the separatist regime?

Chișinău is a hostage of the Soviet infrastructure. Their main gas pipeline transits across Transnistria. Therefore, they have to look for an unstable and ugly compromise.

Firstly, because it is home to a power plant that generates more than two-thirds of the electricity for the right bank, it also supplies cities, villages, and industries on the left bank. Gas is needed to generate power at a thermal power station.

Secondly, Transnistria, which uses gas for free (does not pay for its share to Gazprom), has ever been concerned with energy saving.

However, even after receiving a disproportionately large amount of gas (but little for its own needs), official Tiraspol stayed still outraged. The self-proclaimed authorities of the region announced the extension of the state of emergency and stopped the operation of all but one of the Cuciurgan power station units.

The power supply to the right bank has stopped.

Moldova has already practiced importing power from another supplier - Ukraine. In the last few months, Ukrainian power was about 30% of the needs of right-bank Moldova. But now, it is impossible due to massive airstrikes on Ukraine's infrastructure. Ukraine does not export electricity anymore.

As it turned out, in the last year, the Romanian authorities, for whom Moldova is historically seen as a friend, helped to carry out urgent purchases on the market. The terms are not disclosed, but in all circumstances, this electricity is many times more expensive than that produced by Transnistria on free gas.

Thus, on November 2, Moldova expected to double the power price, but raised it 1.5 times. Raising the price a bit more may provoke a social explosion.

The Kremlin's favourite column

Kremlin's hybrid attack is usually based on social outrage. Moldova is no exception.

Presumably, Moscow expected to see people's anger caused by the blackout of cities and disruptions in entire districts. But raising the price tag is a sufficient reason for protests.

Since September in Chișinău, the pro-Russian opposition has been preparing society for protests against the authorities as an integral part of life in Moldova. Later, additional evidence emerged that the protests were paid. The police busted an apartment where the coordinators distributed money to the pseudo-demonstrators.

And then something happened that seems incredible for Ukraine: the protests' nominal organiser and sponsor, oligarch Ilan Shor, internationally wanted and hiding in Israel, publicly announced that these were indeed funds for hired demonstrators. He explained that he would pay anyway for those protests.

The real organiser of the protests in Chișinău is the Russian FSB.

A thorough journalistic investigation made it possible to find out even the names of the officials who disguised themselves, in particular, as Russian "diplomats."

Shor held his protest in Chișinău on Sunday and gathered a crowd of several thousand. Paid participants mixed with real ideological supporters to shout "Jos Maia Sandu!" ("Go away Maia Sandu"), demanding early elections for both the president and the parliament.

Sunday's protest gathered a record crowd for a long time. Shor secured the status of "the Kremlin's favourite opposition."

What happens next? Moldova is entering turbulence. It will try not to collapse economically and energetically. With the EU and Romania's help, it has a good chance to overcome its difficulties. But how to reassure citizens in the conditions of still strong Russian propaganda and powerful pro-Russian parties still needs to be fully understood.

Sandu's team chose as a recipe... the fight against corruption. High-profile trials and detentions are now underway. And Ukraine backs this. And if this struggle lets Moldova return part of the money stolen by the previous government, then it is quite possible that Sandu will succeed.


Written by Sergiy Sydorenko
"European Pravda" editor

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