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Moldova's pro-Russian ex-president called for snap presidential and parliamentary elections on Tuesday, amid soaring natural gas prices.
Opposition leader Igor Dodon told the country's pro-Western government to go to Moscow to negotiate cheaper natural gas from Russia, a day after it was announced the country's gas price had risen 47% in August.
Dodon, who yields considerable influence in Moldova, made the comments despite being under house arrest over charges of treason and corruption.
The former Moldovian president denies committing these offences and has vowed to defy prosecutors' orders which forbid him from talking to the press.
Moldova's Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spînu told reporters that Moldovagaz, the country's national gas company, had asked Russia's Gazprom if it could postpone paying its natural gas bill for August - they are still to receive a reply.
The small landlocked country in Eastern Europe buys its gas from the Russian energy giant Gazprom under a contract drawn up last year. Under the deal's terms, prices fluctuate monthly as they are calculated from spot prices for both gas and oil, which have soared this year due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"President Maia Sandu and Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita should set aside their pride and urgently head to Moscow to agree a lower price for gas like the leadership of Hungary... which pays a much better price than Moldova," Dodon said.
Last week, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban said he was seeking to sign a new deal with Russia in the coming months to supply his country with nearly one billion cubic metres of gas.
"We are negotiating with the Russians ... this deal can be signed during the summer, and then we will be safe," he said. "Hungary will have enough gas."
Dodon, who has repeatedly echoed the main themes of Russian propaganda and attacked the West's Ukraine strategy, said presidential and parliamentary elections should be organised to replace Moldova's pro-western government.
"The new authorities... should reduce the import price several times and significantly reduce tariffs for end consumers," he said, without specifying how this could be achieved.
Dodon, who lost re-election in November 2020, is being investigated over four criminal cases and faces up to 20 years in jail. He is accused of committing multiple offences including treason, corruption, financing a party via an organised criminal group and illicit enrichment.
Dodon was detained in May in the former Soviet republic of 2.6 million people, which applied for EU membership this year, yet has remained firmly in the public eye.
Moldova's deputy prime minister said the government was looking at three possible scenarios in which Gazprom cuts the supply of natural gas by 35%, 50% and 100%. This could happen due to a long-standing dispute between the pair over gas debt or if Moldova does not pay for the energy it is currently using.
Andrei Spînu promised leaders would do as much as they could to ensure Moldovans have warm homes this winter and that the country is exploring the possibility of tapping different sources of energy.
Gas prices in Moldova have risen to $1,458.5 per 1,000 cubic metres this month -- up from $643 in January.