A pro-Russian governor in Moldova has allegedly signed a “fake” contract to supply cheap gas to her region.
The accusation was made by the Moldovan energy minister Victor Parlicov who declared the contract to be a “lie” constructed for electioneering purposes.
Moldova is currently torn between its pro-European government and a pro-Russian opposition as local elections loom on November 5.
The accusations have been levelled at Evghenia Guțul, who won a shock July victory to become the governor, or “Başkan”, of the autonomous Gagauzia region – home to the ethnic minority Gagauz people.
On October 31 she declared that she had secured a bargain gas contract for Gagauzia, which would provide its residents with domestic gas at 10 lei (5 eurocents) per cubic metre.
Parlicov declared: “The contract published by the Başkan is a forgery, a lie and cannot be executed. Obviously, we are in an election campaign and before the elections they make certain promises.”
President of Moldova Maia Sandu said it was effectively not possible for gas to be delivered specifically to Gagauzia. She said gas arriving in the country would be evenly distributed across Moldova.
“These people know no limits in terms of making promises,” Sandu said of Guțul and her political allies.
“They promised to build an airport in Comrat [the capital of Gagauzia], after that will come a spaceport and so on and so forth.
“These are lies that they never stop telling, humiliating people every day with empty promises.”
Guțul’s summer election campaign was notable for its extravagant promises. Alongside the pledge to construct €100 million airport in the region, she also vowed to raise public salaries by 30 per cent and build a major amusement park.
The inauguration in Moldova of a new pro-Russian governor may spell fresh trouble for the embattled nation. https://t.co/BZ5dtSKxq1
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) July 20, 2023
She is a former member of the Șor party, a pro-Russian opposition group in Moldova run by the exiled oligarch Ilan Șor. In April 2023, he was convicted of fraud and money laundering.
In June, the Șor party was banned by the Moldovan courts for organising months of protests which it was claimed were intended to foment a coup. It was allegedly hoped that would install a pro-Russian Moldovan government. Guțul subsequently stood as an independent.
She has said she would sue Parlicov unless he issued an apology for his allegations.
Moldovan outlet NewsMaker analysed the docouments she published, claiming they confirm that a Turkish company would supply natural gas at a third of the market price.
Several Moldovan gas transporters and distributers contacted by the same outlet claimed they had no knowledge about any requests, gas deliveries, or change of gas suppliers corresponding to what was outlined in Guțul’s documentation.
Wedged between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova finds itself in a tight geopolitical spot. Its Eastern frontier is occupied by the Russian-backed breakaway Republic of Transnistria.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moldova applied to join the European Union.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov warned at the time that if the country continued on its pro-EU path it would become “another Ukraine”.
In February this year, Sandu announced that Ukrainian intelligence had made her aware of a Russian plot designed to destabilise the country.
The EU has sent a security mission to Moldova to try to stabilise the government against what it fears could become “hybrid warfare”.