Russia Agrees to Extend Deadline for Moldova's Gas Payments

CHISINAU/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian gas giant Gazprom said on Wednesday it has agreed not to stop gas exports to Moldova, which has failed to pay for the gas on time, expecting full payments on Friday, averting an energy crisis in the ex-Soviet state, at least for now.

Haggling over a new long-term energy supply deal between Moldova and Russia had tipped the small eastern European nation into crisis last month that appeared to be resolved when both sides struck a new deal.

However, on Monday, Moldovagaz received a notification from Gazprom threatening to cut off gas supplies to the country within 48 hours unless Moldova pays $73 million for recent deliveries.

The previous contract expired in September and Russia had threatened to cut off supplies, citing future prices and unpaid bills, in what the European Union and allies of Moldova's pro-Western government have called political blackmail.

The Kremlin denied the Russian company was using gas talks to try to extract political concessions.

Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita earlier on Wednesday urged parliament to approve budget amendments that would allow the national energy company to pay Gazprom, the parliamentary press service said in a statement.

Moldova's deputy prime minister Andrei Spinu said the government has taken all necessary measures to secure debt payments on Friday.

"Contractual obligations should be fulfilled," Sergei Kupriyanov, a Gazprom spokesman, told Reuters.

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