Russia could raise gas prices for Moldova

Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom could raise prices for gas sold to Moldova to European levels, a top company official said Wednesday, as the government mulls economic sanctions in protesting what it considers unfriendly actions by the former Soviet republic.

Earlier this month, parliament Speaker Boris Gryzlov said he had been notified the Cabinet would reassess Russia's preferential trade deals with Moldova. The lower house in February recommended the Kremlin consider sanctions to protest what lawmakers called Moldova's political blockade of the Russian-speaking separatist region of Trans-Dniester.

Gazprom Deputy CEO Alexander Ryazanov said Wednesday that Moldova's "gas industry is well able to work according to market principles," according to Interfax news agency. "From 2006 gas supplies to Moldova may be carried out at market prices, which correspond to European (prices)."

Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kuprianov confirmed the company was planning to raise its rates with Moldova from their current level of US$80 (€62) per thousand cubic meters. Western European customers of the Russian gas giant pay more than US$100 (€77).

He said, however, that "this has to be calculated separately. We aren't talking about the exact same prices as for Europe - this is impossible - but comparable ones."

The lawmakers in the lower house, or State Duma, called on Moscow to consider imposing an embargo on Moldovan alcohol and tobacco products, to increase the price of Russian energy supplies and start requiring visas for residents of Moldova. None of the changes would affect residents of Trans-Dniester.

Associated Press

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