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Moldova Introduces State Of Emergency Amid Russian Gas Crisis.

Moldova's lawmakers have approved a 60-day state of emergency in the energy sector amid the country's difficulties with gas payments to Russia's state-controlled Gazprom.

Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita told parliament on January 20 that the new regime was needed after Gazprom, the largest supplier of natural gas to Europe, rejected a request to reschedule the January gas payment.

The government has said that Moldovagaz proposed paying $38 million to Gazprom by January 20, with the remaining $25 million to be paid at a later date. The Russian energy giant, however, rejected the proposal.

The state of emergency gives the cabinet more control to manage the energy sector, such as switching gas supplies from industry to households and using state budget funds to pay for gas, Gavrilita has said.

Late last year, traditional supplier Russia threatened to cut off gas supplies to the impoverished country sandwiched between EU member Romania and Ukraine if the sides failed to agree on the extension of their gas contract, which expired in September.

Moldova declared a state of emergency in October and started buying gas from other countries before Gazprom and Chisinau agreed to extend their contract for Russian natural gas supplies for a period of five years.

Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development Andrei Spinu said on January 11, however, that the purchase price had increased from $550 per 1,000 cubic meters in December to $647 in January, a hike that was problematic for one of Europe's poorest countries.

Some observers say Russia is using energy as a way to punish Moldova for electing pro-Western President Maia Sandu in 2020 in a vote that rejected Russian-backed incumbent Igor Dodon.

Russia has been criticized in the past for setting prices according to a country's political allegiance.

With reporting by Reuters

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