IN FOCUS: Ukraine & Moldova Brief

Review of December 2023 and January 2024

Petra Bošková, Laura Ďorďová, Sára Gregová, Katarína Žiaranová


 Flags of the European Union and Ukraine  Photo:

EU Proposes Preliminary Measures to Utilise Frozen Russian Assets for Ukraine Aid

On December 12, the European Commission proposed a groundbreaking initiative to utilise profits from Russian state assets, frozen due to sanctions, for the reconstruction of Ukraine. This move, unprecedented in its approach, represents a significant development in the EU’s response to the Ukraine crisis.

Approximately €200 billion of Russian Central Bank reserves are currently immobilised in the EU. The Commission’s proposal, announced by Vice-President Vera Jourova, focuses on channelling the “windfall revenues” generated by these assets into separate accounts. This is seen as the first step in potentially using these funds for Ukraine’s rebuilding efforts. The profits, once segregated, would be immobilised to ensure their future availability for Ukraine’s reconstruction. However, the proposal does not yet outline specific methods for utilising these funds, leaving the decision to member states based on future recommendations from the Commission.

This initiative follows calls from EU countries for legal mechanisms to use these frozen assets to aid Ukraine. While more hawkish Eastern and Central European states have pushed for this move, others, like Belgium and Estonia, are exploring national strategies for leveraging these freezes. EU leaders, who reviewed the proposal at a summit, emphasised the need for decisive progress in directing these extraordinary revenues to support Ukraine. The European Council’s summit conclusions called for legal proposals to facilitate this process, consistent with EU and international law.

Despite the innovative nature of this proposal, the European Central Bank and some EU capitals have expressed concerns about potential impacts on financial markets and the Euro’s status. Nonetheless, the Commission, with support from the G7, is exploring this approach, emphasising the need for legal and financial caution. Overall, the EU’s plan to tap into Russian assets for Ukraine’s benefit marks a significant development, balancing legal, economic, and ethical considerations in the face of ongoing conflict and reconstruction needs.

US Reports about Security Cooperation with Ukraine Amidst Russian Aggression

On December 27, the US Bureau of Political and Military Affairs released a comprehensive report detailing the extensive support the United States and its allies provided to Ukraine. This robust assistance program is a response to Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine, including the full-scale invasion that commenced on February 24, 2022.

Since 2014, following Russia’s unlawful annexation of Crimea, the U.S. has been a steadfast supporter of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The total US military assistance since Russia’s initial invasion in 2014 amounts to over $47 billion, with approximately $44.2 billion allocated since the 2022 invasion. This support underscores the US commitment to Ukraine as a key strategic partner in the region. The assistance encompasses a wide array of military equipment and training, enhancing Ukraine’s defence capabilities and its interoperability with NATO. The aid includes air defence systems like the Patriot battery, NASAMS, HAWK systems, and over 2,000 Stinger missiles. The Fires category covers artillery systems and ammunition, while Ground Maneuver includes tanks, armoured vehicles, and mine-resistant vehicles.

In the realm of aviation, Ukraine has received helicopters and various Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), bolstering its aerial capabilities. The Anti-armor and Small Arms segment includes Javelin anti-armour systems, TOW missiles, and a substantial supply of small arms ammunition. The maritime defence has been bolstered with coastal defence systems and patrol boats. Additionally, the US has provided comprehensive support across other capabilities, including communications systems, night vision devices, medical supplies, and training for various military operations.

The US has also utilised the Presidential Drawdown Authority to provide $23.8 billion in military assistance from DoD stockpiles. Congress has further appropriated billions in Foreign Military Financing for Ukraine and other countries impacted by the conflict. The Global Security Contingency Fund and Conventional Weapons Destruction programs have also played significant roles in supporting Ukraine, especially in demining efforts and managing explosive hazards. Furthermore, the US has facilitated third-party transfers from NATO allies, providing additional military equipment to Ukraine. The Foreign Military Sales program and Direct Commercial Sales have further contributed to Ukraine’s defence capabilities.


Group of Hooded Hackers Shining Through a Digital Russian Flag. Photo:

EU Initiates Accession Talks with Ukraine for Membership, Yet Hungarian PM Blocks Financial Aid to Kyiv

At the EU summit on December 14 of last year, European leaders reached an agreement to initiate accession negotiations with Ukraine. However, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban impeded the provision of 50 billion EUR in financial aid to Kyiv. Should Orban choose to exercise his veto once again, the EU has a contingency plan prepared to offer financial assistance to Kyiv.

Negotiations regarding Ukraine’s EU membership have hit an impasse, as all 26 leaders, excluding Orban, endorsed the initiation of talks. The German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, discreetly suggested to the Hungarian Prime Minister to take a „coffee break“, allowing the main leaders to proceed with the vote without his presence. To make this decision, one-time support is required, a condition unattainable in the presence of Orban. This strategic move was collectively presented and played a pivotal role in approving Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership.

The Hungarian prime minister justified his abstention from the vote by stating that he had spent enough time dissuading other leaders from engaging in negotiations. He added that those present were eager to commence accession talks with Ukraine, prompting him to step back and delegate responsibility to them.

Nevertheless, the process of joining the EU is a complex procedure replete with technical details. It will take years before Ukraine is prepared to become a member country. The Hungarian Prime Minister still has ample means to obstruct this process.

Orban believes that Ukraine’s EU membership would have a negative impact on all member states, particularly Hungary. He foresees adverse consequences for Hungarian farmers, fearing that funds from the Cohesion Fund, which addresses economic disparities among EU members, might be redirected to Ukraine. Orban views Ukraine not as a prospective EU member but rather as a buffer zone between the EU and Russia.

Nevertheless, Orban did not accede to all the requests made by European leaders during the summit. Negotiations concluded when Orban exercised his veto, obstructing a more concrete and pressing decision. Specifically, he vetoed financial assistance for Kyiv totalling 50 billion EUR for the years 2024-2027, an allocation that the rest of the member states aim to incorporate into the Union’s multi-year budget.

The Hungarian prime minister asserts that EU funding for Ukraine should not be derived from the EU budget, emphasising the necessity to establish a “reasonable” timetable for any financial support to Kyiv. Orban stated at a press conference, “I am convinced that giving Ukraine 50 billion EUR from the EU budget for five years… is a bad decision.”

Orban utilised his veto power to secure concessions for Budapest, refusing further financial assistance for Kyiv unless Budapest received funds from EU resources. A substantial portion of Hungary’s financial resources had been suspended by the European bloc due to violations of rule-of-law principles, human rights, and corruption in the country.

The political deadlock regarding additional financing for Ukraine in Washington, coupled with the setback of the Ukrainian counter-offensive, is also advantageous for Orban. According to him, the likelihood of Ukraine winning the war is low, and thus, allies should advocate for negotiations and an immediate ceasefire. He staunchly opposes providing military aid to Ukraine, believing that supplying arms to Kyiv prolongs the ongoing suffering.

EU officials have devised a backup plan to offer financial support to Kyiv in case Orban repeats his veto at the upcoming EU summit on February 1. Member states can provide Ukraine with bilateral financial aid in 2024 outside the EU budget. Participating member states can furnish guarantees to the European budget. These guarantees would enable the European Commission to secure up to 20 billion EUR for Kyiv on the capital markets in 2024. Though limited to loans, the plan assures Kyiv of funds by March 2024, minimising the risk of resorting to inflation-inducing monetary financing.

At the EU summit on February 1, 2024, at the end, Orban budged and let the adoption of the EU’s 50 billion EUR assistance to Ukraine pass without obstructions.

Ukrainian and Russian Presidents’ Contrasting New Year Messages: Zelensky Emphasises Resilience, Putin Minimizes War Impact

Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, delivered New Year speeches with starkly different tones at the end of another year of brutal war. Zelensky focused on the resilience of Ukrainians in the conflict with Russia, while Putin downplayed the war to create a sense of normality.

Zelensky’s speech highlighted the strength and resilience demonstrated by Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion. However, he urged Ukrainians „to make an extraordinary effort and to do more“. The Ukrainian president also acknowledged that his country’s spring offensive did not achieve the success he envisioned. However, in his message, he emphasised that Ukraine has grown stronger in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Zelensky has pledged a significant boost in Ukraine’s weapons production in 2024, vowing to produce at least one million drones this year. „Next year, the enemy will feel the wrath of domestic production,“ he stated.Additionally, he announced that F-16 fighter jets would be supplied by Ukraine’s Western allies. “Our pilots are already mastering F-16 jets, and we will definitely see them in our skies,” he said. “So that our enemies can certainly see what our real wrath is.”

In his New Year speech, Putin briefly expressed gratitude to Russian soldiers, labelling them “our heroeson the front lines of the battle for truth and justice“. However, he avoided specifying the nature of the battle and made no mention of Ukraine or the West. The Russian president vaguely alluded to his narrative of Russia’s existential conflict with the West, stating, “There is no force that is able to divide us, force us to forget the memory and faith of our fathers or halt our development.” Putin aimed to convey a sense of normalcy, seeking to calm the Russian public.

While Zelensky acknowledged around 6,000 air raid alerts in Ukraine over the past year, Putin didn’t mention any attacks, including the tens of thousands of Russians who lost their lives in intense battles for Ukrainian cities like Bakhmut and Avdiivka. Additionally, he made no reference to an attack that Russia claims Ukraine carried out on the border city of Belgorod at the end of the year, leading to the death of at least 24 civilians.

This year’s speech marked a notable departure from the previous year when Putin, accompanied by soldiers, fervently called on Russian society to make sacrifices for the nation’s survival. At that time, he was humiliated and frustrated by Russian retreats in northeastern Ukraine, prompted by the Kremlin’s unpopular military proposal. Putin accused the West of „cynically exploiting Ukraine“.

In contrast, this year’s message appeared to mirror his assurance of Russia’s capability to sustain the war without disrupting the lives of its citizens, especially in light of Ukraine’s counter-offensive setback and diminishing support for Ukraine in the West. However, neither side can cite significant frontline accomplishments in 2023.

Putin has moderated his once-strong, nationalistic stance on Ukraine and paid more attention to economic and inflation issues in this speech, aligning with the concerns of ordinary citizens. This shift in focus is seen as a preparation for the upcoming presidential elections in March.

The speeches coincided with both nations concluding the year with heightened air attacks on each other’s territories. Russia initiated its most extensive aerial bombardment to date, and in retaliation, Ukrainian forces launched an attack on the border city of Belgorod.


Ukraine Flag. Photo:

Polish blockade of key Ukraine checkpoint

Already in November 2023, Polish truck drivers were blocking roads to three border crossings with Ukraine. The reason was their Government’s inaction over the loss of business to foreign competitors during Russia’s war on Ukraine. At the time, the Ukrainian Government called on Poland to stop the protesting truckers and called on Warsaw to act. The protest met with disapproval from both the Polish Government and the EU, which called on the truckers to lift the blockade and let the transport resume.

They planned to halt commercial traffic to re-introduce limits in transport operations. They wanted to use a similar approach as farmers. At the beginning of the war, the truckers from Ukraine were exempted from the need to obtain permits to cross the Polish border. As a result, the trucks from Ukraine crossed the Polish border approximately 900,000 times (before the invasion, it was around 180,000 trucks annually).

On December 18, the protest was resumed, and the Polish truck drivers blocked the largest freight border crossing with Ukraine. They demand the reintroduction of permits to enter the European Union for their Ukrainian competitors.

The police announced around 1,800 trucks at the Dorohusk crossing when the protest restarted, which caused a line nearly 46 kilometres long. Ukraine’s border guard service said Polish protesters planned to let just one truck through the blockade per hour. “At the same time, they say vehicles carrying security and humanitarian cargo, as well as those transporting animals, perishable food, etc., will be allowed to pass,” it said.

Ukraine relies on road transport for its exports and imports, with Poland as an EU member.

Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, promised to resolve the conflict and accused the previous Government of having abandoned the protesting truckers. Negotiations between the new Government in Warsaw and the protesting Polish truckers took place, but they failed to find a solution yet.

Risk of floating mines in the Black Sea

The war in Ukraine brings various problems that not only Ukraine but many other countries must deal with. One of them is, for instance, the danger of floating mines in the Black Sea. To eliminate this danger caused by the conflict, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania signed a deal in Istanbul.

“With the start of the war, a threat of floating mines in the Black Sea has arisen. To combat it, we agreed to form a Black Sea mine counter-measures task group,” said Yasar Guler, Turkish Defence Minister, at the signing ceremony. Guler together with Angel Tilvar, Romanian Minister of National Defence and Atanas Zapryanov, Minister of Defence of Bulgaria, met in Istanbul to sign a memorandum of understanding for the formation of a trilateral initiative to clear the explosives.

Stray mines several times reached other countries’ coastlines, endangering maritime traffic, fishing, navies as well as civilian security. The loose mines follow the flow of the current in the Black Sea, which runs approximately north-south to the Bosporus, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and then the Mediterranean.

“Black Sea Mine Counter-measures Task Group (MCM Blacksea) is a mine clearance group established by riparian countries under the leadership of Turkey and with the participation of the Romanian and Bulgarian Navies. This organisation is the organisation of the Black Sea coastal countries,” a statement from the Turkish Defence Ministry read. The ministry added that the joint Black Sea task group “is not constituted as an alternative to or against any country or structure and is for defensive purposes only.”

On the same day as the signing ceremony, Turkey rejected the involvement of other NATO allies in the initiative. The reason should be a threat to the Montreux Convention (from 1936) that regulates the governance of the Turkish straits – one of the most important waterways in the world. This Convention gave Turkey full control over the Bosporus and Dardanelles.



EU and Moldova flags. Photo:

Moldova’s President Maia Sandu Announces Bid for Second Term Amidst EU Membership Push

Moldova’s pro-European President, Maia Sandu, has declared her intention to seek a second presidential term in the upcoming 2024 elections, reaffirming her commitment to steer the country towards European Union membership. This announcement, made on December 24, reflects her ongoing efforts to align Moldova more closely with the EU.

Sandu, a former World Bank economist and a prominent figure in Moldovan politics has been a vocal critic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She has also accused Moscow of orchestrating a coup to remove her from power, an allegation the Kremlin denies, dismissing it as Russophobia. Despite these challenges, Sandu remains determined to continue her work, seeking the support and trust of her citizens for another term.

Alongside her re-election bid, Sandu has called on the Moldovan parliament to organise a referendum on EU membership. This move is seen as a decisive step towards clarifying Moldova’s European aspirations, a sentiment echoed by Sandu in her statement. She emphasises the need for a clear national stance on Moldova’s path, envisioning the country as part of the European family. Sandu’s leadership has been characterised by a strong pro-European stance since defeating her pro-Russian rival, Igor Dodon, in December 2020.

Under her presidency, Moldova has made significant strides towards EU integration, with EU leaders recently agreeing to commence formal membership negotiations with Moldova and Ukraine.

Despite opposition from figures like Dodon, who criticises Sandu’s policies and links her presidency with issues like poverty and perceived arrogance, Sandu continues to lead in public opinion polls. Current surveys place her Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) ahead of Dodon’s Socialist Party and other political rivals. As Moldova prepares for its presidential elections, slated for November-December 2024, Sandu’s re-election bid and the proposed EU membership referendum are set to be pivotal moments in determining the country’s future direction and its relationship with Europe and neighbouring regions.

Moldova’s Foreign Minister Resigns

Moldova’s Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu announced his resignation on January 24, marking a significant shift in the nation’s foreign policy landscape. “I have successfully fulfilled the objectives set for me at the beginning of my mandate, and I now need a break,” Popescu said. Appointed in August 2021, Popescu was instrumental in steering the country closer to European Union integration, a key objective set by Moldova’s pro-Western President Maia Sandu. His tenure saw Moldova condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and host thousands of Ukrainian refugees. Under his guidance, Moldova achieved EU candidate status in June 2022 and began membership negotiations in December.

Popescu, a political scientist with a US education and former researcher at the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies, has been a strong proponent of distancing Moldova from Russia. He worked to strengthen Moldova’s ties with the EU, NATO, and particularly Romania, with whom Moldova shares historical and cultural bonds. His efforts included boosting security and defence cooperation and establishing the EU Partnership Mission Moldova.

Following Popescu’s resignation, Mihai Popsoi, previously the parliament’s deputy speaker and a member of Sandu’s governing Action and Solidarity (PAS) party, has been sworn in as the new Foreign Minister. Popsoi is recognised for his significant contributions to parliamentary diplomacy and strengthening Moldova’s international relations. President Sandu praised Popsoi’s commitment to diplomacy and dedication to Moldova’s interests, particularly in guiding the country towards EU membership. Popescu’s departure also led to the creation of a European Integration Bureau headed by Cristina Gherasimov, a deputy foreign minister. This move suggests a continued focus on EU integration, albeit under new leadership.

Popescu’s resignation and Popsoi’s appointment symbolise a transitional phase in Moldova’s foreign policy as the nation continues to navigate its path towards European integration and manage its complex relations with neighbouring countries and Russia.


President Maia Sandu. Photo: Presidency of the Republic of Moldova.

Moldovan Court Overturns Ban on Alleged Pro-Russia Party that Removed It from Local Elections

An appeals court in Moldova’s capital has overturned a decision that initially prohibited hundreds of candidates from the alleged pro-Russia Chance party from taking part in an electoral race shortly before a nationwide ballot. The pro-Western Government has announced its intention to appeal the court ruling that overturned the election ban on the Chance party.

The Chance party (Chance. Duties. Realisation.) is a political coalition established by Ilan Shor, an exiled Moldovan oligarch sentenced for mass fraud, following the legal prohibition of the Shor Party. Shor revealed the formation of the Chance party on June 26, 2023, where he intended to assume the role of “political coordinator.” The party serves as a coalition uniting the centre-left opposition against the pro-European Government.

The Chisinau Court of Appeal overturned a ban on the Chance Party imposed by Moldova’s Commission for Exceptional Situations on November 3, just two days before the November 5 local elections. The ban had resulted in the exclusion of approximately 600 candidates from the ballot. The Chance Party pursued a legal challenge against the ban, leading to the subsequent overturning by the Court of Appeal.

In response to the appeal court’s decision, Alexei Lungu, the leader of the Chance Party, asserted that Moldova’s state authorities had „acted illegally“. He argued that the ban had „violated fundamental human rights and the right to free elections“. Lungu stated his intention to request the General Prosecutor’s Office to initiate a criminal case against government spokesman Daniel Voda, alleging „interference with justice and pressure on judges“.

In response, Parliament President Igor Grosu asserted that such court decisions underscore the necessity of an extraordinary evaluation, or vetting, of magistrates. Grosu emphasised the need to purge the justice system of judges who may support the return to power of individuals like Shor. He emphasised that those opposing justice reform must recognise the irreversibility of the vetting process.

Moldova’s government spokesperson, Daniel Voda, stated after the court’s decision that they would challenge it at both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Justice. „We will defend the right of state institutions to protect our national security interests from organised criminal groups,“ Voda stated.

Moldova’s Intelligence and Security Service, SIS, released a report alleging Russia’s attempt to influence the electoral process through the Chance party. The report claimed that the party had received approximately 50 million EUR, funnelled by oligarch Ilan Shor, to destabilise the country and „buy“ voters.

Political analysts considered the ban to be justifiable but harsh. They noted that the decision to exclude the party should have been made earlier.

Moldova’s President Sandu Allegedly Mocks Citizens’ Standard of Living in New Deepfake Video

At the end of the previous year, a deepfake video featuring President Sandu of Moldova surfaced on the Telegram social network on December 31. Within the video, Sandu was seen making ironic comments regarding the standard of living of Moldova’s citizens. The president’s office promptly denied the veracity of the statements, attributing the video to Moscow’s hybrid warfare tactics against the democratic leadership of the country.

Moldova has been consistently targeted by disinformation campaigns, particularly originating from Russia, with the aim of inducing political instability. The overarching objective is to steer Moldova away from its Western and democratic trajectory.

At the forefront of advocating for Moldova’s Western and democratic alignment is President Maia Sandu. Her primary objective is the integration of Moldova into European structures. She has openly criticised Russia’s incursion into Ukraine and accused Moscow of orchestrating a coup to remove her from power.

In a recent effort to undermine the pro-Western leadership of the country, a deepfake video targeting Sandu emerged. The video was released on the Telegram social network just before the customary New Year’s speech scheduled for December 31. Employing artificial intelligence, the video was disseminated on the “Sandu Oficial” Telegram channel and subsequently propagated by various Telegram accounts, primarily targeting Russian-speaking audiences.

Within the video, the purported head of state extends New Year’s greetings to citizens while urging their support in the upcoming presidential elections. Simultaneously, ironic remarks about the standard of living of Moldovan citizens are made. The video creators label philanthropist George Soros and the United States as “sponsors” of Moldova’s pro-European leadership, aligning with a central theme of Russian disinformation in Moldova.

Disputing the video’s content, the president’s office asserted that its intent was „to sow mistrust and division in society, ultimately weakening Moldova’s democratic institutions“. Encouraging the population to verify information and rely on reliable sources, the office emphasised the need for discernment in the face of such manipulative tactics.

According to authorities, the recent deployment of deepfake technology has primarily targeted platforms associated with fugitive oligarch Ilan Shor, who is reportedly collaborating with Moscow. Shor, the former chairman of the Chance political party known for its pro-Russian stance, remains connected to the party despite his exile and replacement as chairman.

The party, with a pro-Russian orientation and Russophile agenda, is financially supported by Russia, having received over 50 million EUR in recent months, as per the prime minister’s statements. The Chance party allegedly utilises these funds to back candidates and sway voters.

Anticipating destabilisation efforts against the pro-Western Moldovan government, which assumed office in 2021, the Chance party seeks to reinstate a pro-Russian leadership. Since September 2022, the party has consistently organised protest actions against the current Government and actively works to undermine Moldova’s EU integration process.

The European Union plays a crucial role in this context. Following the grant of candidate country status to Moldova last December, the EU must take more assertive measures to acknowledge the significant pressure the country is under. Urgent support against Russian interference is paramount, especially with the approaching presidential election, as it will significantly impact Moldova’s long-term political trajectory. Taking proactive measures, including addressing Moscow’s influence campaigns, is vital for safeguarding the future of Moldovan democracy and ensuring the security of Europe’s eastern neighbourhood.


Chisinau, Moldova. Photo:

Taxes for Transnistria were Announced at the End of the Year

On December 29, 2023, the Moldovan Government decided to levy taxes on goods imported into the separatist region Transnistria. These taxes, criticised by separatist authorities, should start January 1. 

Vadim Krannoselsky, current de facto President of Transnistria, refers to Moldova’s Free Trade Agreement signed with the EU in 2013. According to the Transnistrian leader, within this agreement, Transnistrian companies are allowed to operate in the European market. “First of all, Moldova needs to clarify the official position regarding new fiscal burdens,” he said. In his opinion, Moldova is now limiting the implementation of that free trade regime.

The legislation from 1997 on customs duties granted exemptions for economic agents in this region. Thanks to that, Transnistria could benefit from the same export conditions as Moldova in terms of exports to the EU. Moreover, Transnistria benefited from tax exemptions on imports from the EU – while Moldovan companies paid import taxes to the state.

With the new legislation, the conditions should be united for both Moldova and Transnistria. Economic agents from Transnistria will pay all related payments for the import of goods, like all other companies from Moldova.

“At the same time, for the import of goods to the region, the preferences granted in accordance with the Treaties and International Agreements to which Moldova is a party will be taken into account,” the Moldovan Customs Service said.

One of the aims of these changes is to gradually include companies from Transnistria into Moldova’s single economic and commercial space. In addition, legislation should ensure fair competition without discrimination for all businesses in the country. In the Companie´s Register in Chisinau, companies from the separatist region must also be registered in case they want to export goods.

Introducing legislation on this issue is important for Moldova, as Transnistria is widely considered a smuggling paradise.

  • Balkan Insight. Moldova Tells Companies in Breakaway Transnistria: Time to Pay Taxes.

Moldova and Ukraine join the „Vertical Corridor” to end Dependence on Russia

The European Union is stepping up efforts to diversify supply and boost energy security. The decision to connect Moldova and Ukraine to the “Vertical Corridor” will also contribute to this intention. The regional “Vertical Corridor” supplies Central and South-East Europe with gas from Azerbaijan via a hub in Greece. It links Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary.

At the Ministerial Conference of the states participating in the Central and South-East European Connectivity, CESEC, held on January 19, the gas grid operators of Moldova, Ukraine, and Slovakia, along with their Greek, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Hungarian counterparts signed a memorandum of understanding. Based on this decision, the gas transmission system operators of Ukraine and Moldova (GTSOU and Vestmoldtransgaz) became official members of the Vertical Gas Corridor. “Working together to strengthen and increase the flexibility of the regional gas systems has emerged as a top priority,” DESFA’s CEO Maria Rita Galli said in the statement.

The concept of this corridor is not a traditional single pipeline but a system connecting existing national gas grids and other gas infrastructure to secure easy gas transit and contribute to energy security.

“The Vertical Corridor will now unite the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline and will allow the transportation of natural gas from Greece to Moldova and underground storage facilities in Ukraine,” Moldova’s Energy Ministry said.

Also, Azerbaijan would like to increase their gas exports to Europe. At the end of last year, they announced a target to double exports by 2027. Until last year, Moldova was 100 per cent dependent on gas from Russian energy giant Gazprom.

The Trans-Balkan pipeline has been used to transport Russian gas to the Balkans via Ukraine, Romania, and Moldova, but it has been running at low capacity since Gazprom diverted volumes to Turkey through the TurkStream pipeline in 2020.

  • Balkan Insight. Moldova, Ukraine To Join Gas Corridor, Ending Dependence on Russia.
  • Ukraine, Moldova, and Slovakia join the ‘Vertical Corridor’ European gas transportation scheme.

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