Moldova moves to secure electricity supply and ban Russian propaganda sites

Moldova moves to secure electricity supply and ban Russian propaganda sites
Moldova's parliament voted in favour of a 60-day state of emergency.
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest February 27, 2022

The Moldovan government has taken its first steps in response to the war in neighbouring Ukraine after lawmakers voted to declare a 60-day state of emergency on February 25. 

Moldova has a long border with Ukraine, and the eastern part of its territory consists of the Russia-backed separatist republic of Transnistria, both of which make it vulnerable to potential destabilisation by the conflict in Ukraine. On top of that, it receives most of its electricity from Transnistria and Ukraine, and its gas from Russia.

The Moldovan authorities, led by the pro-EU Party of Action and Solidarity, have therefore moved swiftly to declare a state of emergency that enables them to take action to secure the country. 

One of the first steps the government took was to ban the Russian propaganda websites and for “incitation to hatred and war”.

Officials had previously warned about disinformation being spread within the country following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The government also announced that it sealed a one-year contract with the power plant in separatist Transnistria and abandoned plans to diversify the energy sources by organising a competitive process aimed at choosing at least two suppliers. The power plant in Cuciurgan, controlled by Russian Inter RAO, offered to maintain the same price (set in 2021, at the time when the natural gas price was still low) for another 12 months after the contract in force expires at the end of March. The 3.5 TWh of electricity to be supplied by the Transnistrian power plant covers some 80% of Moldova's electricity consumption. The rest is supplied by local power plants in Moldova proper or from imports from Ukraine.

Under another measure taken by the government of Moldova under the state or emergency, the management of the private company Avia Invest was replaced. The company was initially set up in 2013 by fugitive politican and businessman Ilan Shor and allegedly controlled at some moment by Moldova’s fugitive former political leader Vlad Plahotniuc; its ownership is now uncertain. The concession contract was terminated by the Moldovan authorities in 2020 but Avia Invest challenged the decision in local and international courts, as it seeks to regain control of the airport. At this moment, Avia Invest has no legal right to conduct operations at Chisinau Airport therefore the government’s decision is mainly precautionary.

At the same time, the Moldovan authorities are keeping an eye on the Russian troops in Transnistria.

“Our institutions are keeping an eye on developments there. Nothing different from what has been seen so far [was reported]. Some changes have been seen these days, but they are not of a nature to indicate preparations for certain operations. Some helicopters of the Russian Federation were reported by media as flying over the territory, but this information was not confirmed by the official bodies of the Republic of Moldova,” said President Maia Sandu in a statement. 

“At this moment there is no information that would lead to the conclusion that something is being prepared there, but, obviously, we cannot rule out anything. On the territory, in the districts on the left bank of the Dniester, we all know that there is a foreign army, that of the Russian Federation, and that involves risk, a risk that we have talked about all these years, which is why we demanded that the Russian army be removed. from the territory of our country,” Sandu added.