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Russia grants Moldova 2-day extension to make gas payments

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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Russian gas giant Gazprom has granted Moldova a two-day extension to settle outstanding payments of nearly $74 million, stepping back from a threat to cut gas exports to the small Eastern European nation Wednesday, officials said.

The original deadline for the payment, which covers Moldova’s gas consumption costs for October and November, was Monday. Gazprom had said the money wasn’t received and warned it would cut Moldova’s gas supply if it didn’t come by Wednesday.

Officials in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, requested this week another extension.

“I have just received Gazprom’s response to my request to extend the payment term for current gas consumption,” Moldova’s Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu said in a statement. “The deadline has been extended until Friday.”

Spinu added that the government “has taken all the necessary measures to pay off the accumulated debt for October-November on Friday.”

The due payment was part of a renewed five-year deal in late October between Moldova and Russia to extend a longstanding contract that expired in late September, which left the two countries at loggerheads over a price hike.

Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov said in a statement Wednesday that Moldova “turned to Gazprom with a request not to stop gas supplies from today.”

“As an exception, Gazprom, showing goodwill and understanding what a difficult situation the citizens of Moldova may face, agreed to this request,” Kupriyanov said. “Gazprom expects Moldova to fulfill all its contractual obligations in general and to pay current payments on time.”

Officials in Moldova, Europe’s poorest country of around 3.5 million people, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, said it would pay the outstanding balance of $74 million from its state budget.

Until September, when the longstanding gas contract ended, Russia had supplied all of Moldova’s natural gas. But after initial efforts to secure a new deal fell through, Moldova turned to Poland to avert a winter gas shortage and diversify its supplies.

The one million cubic meters of gas Moldova received from Poland was the first time the former Soviet Union nation had turned to a non-Russian gas supplier.

While some observers saw the dispute as a Russian bid to exert its influence over Moldova, after a pro-European Union party won a landslide win in a July 11 parliamentary election, the Kremlin denied that politics had any played a part in it.

By STEPHEN McGRATH
Associated Press

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