Moldova says it won't obstruct Russian gas flows to its breakaway region

By Nerijus Adomaitis

OSLO (Reuters) - Moldova will not obstruct the supply of Russian gas to its breakaway Transdniestria region after a transit deal with Ukraine expires this year, the Moldovan energy minister said on Tuesday.

Kyiv has no plans to extend an agreement to transport Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine that expires by the end of 2024, meaning that supplies to Transdniestria could also stop.

The unrecognised statelet, which borders Ukraine to the east, has maintained autonomy from Moldova for three decades with support from Moscow, which has more than a thousand troops stationed there.

Ex-Soviet state Moldova, which has denounced Russia's war in Ukraine, aims to join the European Union.

Moldovan Energy Minister Victor Parlicov told Reuters during a state visit to Norway to boost cooperation, including over energy, that Moldova's government would not stand in the way of Transdniestria receiving gas from Russia.

"We will not obstruct the supply of Russian gas to the region. We believe that together with Ukraine, we can find a way to keep things calm in the Transdniestria region," he said.

He later told a meeting with Norwegian government officials and businesses that Transdniestria "would collapse" if gas flows stopped. "We will take it slow, we don't want to blow things up," he said.

In the past, Moldova relied almost exclusively on Russian gas under a deal with Russia's state-controlled gas giant Gazprom but stepped up efforts to diversify sources in the wake of the Ukraine war, and today imports gas via Romania.

The country has also built a power interconnector to Romania, but still gets most of its electricity from a large gas-powered plant in Transdniestria at a relatively low, fixed price.

Norway already provides financial support to Moldova through its multi-billion-dollar Ukraine aid programme, the latter included 400 million Norwegian crowns ($36.87 million) for the purchase of gas in 2023.

(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis; Editing by Susan Fenton)