As a neighbour of Russia, the crisis in Moldova is worse than combatting higher energy bills as people struggle “to afford the basics”. Carolina Untilă works in a corner shop in the outskirts of Chișinău, the capital, and has spoken of how some food prices have doubled amid soaring inflation due to the country’s dependence on energy imports.
Ms Untilă said: “I see elderly people crying in front of the shop window. It’s not that they can’t afford salami; they can’t even afford the basics like milk.”
She noted how some products have doubled in price and grocery sales have halved as people struggle to stretch their money to make ends meet.
Ion Istrati, a 72-year-old from Borogani in southern Moldova said gas and electricity prices are six times higher than last year.
He and other Moldovans have subsequently applied for government help, saying: “Out of a pension, how can you save anything? It all goes on food and medicine.
“Without the compensation, it would have been grave.”
Polls have suggested that over 40 percent of Moldovans are struggling with the basic costs of living, while 21 percent of people cannot afford the bare minimum.
The government has been forced to seek financial aid from Western allies as it defiantly continues to shun Russia’s energy supplies in an attempt to become almost entirely energy independent from its neighbour.
The former Soviet republic has been caught in the cross fire between Ukraine and Russia after Russia’s state gas company Gazprom cut huge supplies to the country in October and Ukrainian electricity interconnectors has made Moldova a victim of the war.
Ukraine ceased exporting electricity to Moldova in October due to Russian attacks on its vital infrastructure.
Moldova’s ministers have acknowledged the issues the 2.5 million people of Moldova are facing with the cost-of-living crisis and geopolitical risks.
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Political analyst Igor Botan said: “Russia’s hybrid war in Moldova replicates the energy strategy used against Europe at large, but it also involves the propaganda war, that we see in the media, on social channels, and on the streets, at protests.
“In response, the government is attempting to diversify our energy sources and get support from our Western partners.”
However, other members from opposition parties such as the Șor party have warned that the suffering of its population needs to be solved by connecting back to Russia.
The party has organised a number of pro-Kremlin and anti-government protests in the capital which were attended by tens of thousands of disgruntled Moldovans, though it has been suggested that some were paid to turn up.
Some figures from the party in Central Moldova have been accused of meeting Duma officials in Moscow to find a way to secure a local gas deal.
The UK and US have both imposed sanctions on the Party’s leader Ilan Shor as part of attempts by the US to counter Russia’s “persistent malign influence campaigns and systemic corruption in Moldova”.
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The UK names Shor and 30 international political figures who will face sanctions including being prevented from entering the country or sending money through British banks.
While a number of Moldovans have agreed with Shor and his party over re-aligning themselves with Russia in an attempt to end their hardship, electricity blackouts have pushed others closer to the EU.
In November, some areas of the country were left without power for 24 hours which saw Moldovan’s take to social media to condemn Russia with #withoutyou trending.
The phrase came from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s note to the Kremlin which said: “Without gas or without you? Without light or without you? Without you!”
Meanwhile, pro-Russia Moldovan President Igor Dodon slammed Russia’s attacks on Ukraine and thanked “Romanians for selling us electricity” where nearly 90 percent of the country’s electricity came from in November.
However, as Romania struggles to keep up with demand for its own population, Moldova will have to seek another solution which may include the temporary agreement to allow Moldova to trade gas stocks for cheaper electricity from Transnistria.