“Russia’s most powerful weapon is its manipulation of energy prices”

Moldova, a candidate for European Union (EU) membership, earlier in the week received a guarantee of 100 million euros in additional international aid from Emmanuel Macron to overcome energy difficulties caused by the war. Ukraine. But Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilița also has to face pro-Russian demonstrations in the capital of Moldova itself.

Marianne: Do the current pro-Russian demonstrations pose a risk to Moldovan democracy?

Natalia Gavrilita:Protesters are paid by the fugitive [Ilan Shor, un oligarque moldave proche du Kremlin] in league with a hostile force. This does not mean that no one has criticism of the government, but the protests are not caused by legitimate grievances, but by illegal money. The demonstrations themselves are not a threat to Moldovan democracy. But there may be a well-funded malign influence campaign that they are part of, especially since the use of energy weapons is part of that campaign.

such as multiple media Washington post Rise Moldova or Dossier Center indicate that these demonstrations are supported by Russian special services. Can you confirm?

Yes. This was recently confirmed by the US Department of the Treasury, which imposed sanctions on protest organizers for collaborating with the government of the Russian Federation to subvert Moldova’s democracy.

These same media indicate that potential FSB agents have not yet left Moldova. Ilan Shor is still involved in Moldova through his party, companies and social networks. Do you know about it?

Of course, I cannot comment on the activities of the national security organizations in detail, but it is true that Shor still has a political presence in Moldova, although his support is small and his influence is waning. The government recently applied to the Constitutional Court to ban the activities of its own party.

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We are also making progress in curbing the financial gains from ill-gotten assets. Today, the Court of Appeal issued a decision to return the Chisinau airport to the state administration after a nine-year concession by the company controlled by Shor. A number of high-profile fugitives are out of the country and we will need strong international cooperation to bring them to justice and seize property stolen from the Moldovan people.

How does Moldova cope with this Russian intervention?

Russia’s most powerful weapon is manipulating energy prices by first cutting gas supplies and then destroying civilian power infrastructure, meaning Ukraine has no electricity reserves to sell to Moldova. In response to the Kremlin’s use of this weapon, we have implemented measures aimed at reducing energy consumption, increasing strategic gas reserves and diversifying our energy sources. We are looking for alternative supply contracts and financial assistance from our friends, as we did in the framework of the Moldova support platform meeting in Paris.

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Moldovan prosecutors are investigating and prosecuting corrupt individuals with Kremlin ties, but it will take time to do so in a way that meets European standards of the rule of law because our government is busy with it. We also strive to minimize room for misinformation by communicating as transparently as possible about all of our work.

The Russians continue their pressure with energy blackmail. How is the situation in Moldova as winter begins?

Last year, the gas tariff was increased seven times, and the electricity tariff was increased four times. The cost of electricity is expected to increase further this month as Moldova receives its daily supply from the European market. Most Moldovans will struggle to pay these prices, and some won’t manage at all. Friends provide funds that we use to subsidize energy bills for those who cannot afford them. For example, Germany gave us 40 million euros.

But Moldova is a poor country and we need more help. I would say that this is both generous and short-sighted, because not keeping Moldovans warm and light this winter is the biggest threat to liberal democracy and Moldova, which remains on the European path.

How can your European and American partners help you?

They have and can continue to help Moldova with energy and money to pay the higher prices for the energy we are able to import. By supporting our reform agenda with technical expertise and funding. Strengthening our security by sharing intelligence and other experiences, helping to expose Kremlin malign influence operations, and raising awareness that any aggression against Moldova will be costly for all parties involved.

Recently, a Russian missile that landed in the north of Moldova was shot down by the Ukrainian air defense system. Are you afraid of a situation like in Poland with the death of civilians?

The consequences of war come in many forms, all of them bad. One of the worst scenarios you can imagine is a missile hitting a nuclear power plant in Ukraine. The only way to avoid such catastrophes is for the Kremlin to withdraw its troops from the territory of its peaceful neighbor.

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