How Russian strikes on Ukraine heighten Moldova’s energy crisis

Mass blackouts have temporarily hit multiple cities across Moldova - highlighting the impact of Russia's war in Ukraine on neighbouring countries.

The outages happened as the Russian military pounded Ukrainian infrastructure. Moldova borders Ukraine and is the poorest nation in Europe.

Its Soviet-era energy systems remain interconnected with Ukraine, which is why the Russian missile barrage triggered the automatic shutdown of a supply line and caused the lights to go out temporarily.

“Energy flows go partly from Ukraine to Moldova and back," said Mihai Tirsu, director of the Energy Institute at the Technical University in Chisinau.

"When the flow disappears on one segment, it starts to overload other power lines. So the system is capable of functioning without interruption. But when massive disconnections occur at several stations, the system goes off-line because it becomes unbalanced and the protection systems step in," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been accused of weaponising energy against the pro-EU Moldovan government after Moscow announced it will reduce its natural gas supply to Chisinau.

Moldova’s pro-Western president, Maia Sandu, said Russia's decision to cut her country's gas supplies amounted to “political blackmail” and was an attempt to “cynically exploit people’s hardships" and to turn the country away from its path toward joining the EU.

Moldova became a candidate for EU membership in June, on the same day as Ukraine.

In response, Chisinau has turned to Romania, which now supplies about 90% of its electricity.

But Moldovans are still feeling the pinch of the energy crisis.

“We turn the heating on during the night only, we switch off the lights. The more we do this, the better for our energy consumption and for our pockets,” said Valeriu, a Chisinau resident.

The EU has pledged 250 million euros to help the former Soviet republic tackle the energy crisis.