Massive power outages temporarily hit multiple cities across Moldova – highlighting the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine on neighboring countries.
The outages occurred as the Russian military struck Ukraine’s infrastructure. Moldova borders Ukraine and is the poorest nation in Europe.
Its Soviet-era energy systems are still interconnected with Ukraine, which is why a Russian missile barrage triggered an automatic shutdown of the supply line and caused a temporary blackout.
“Energy flows are partly from Ukraine to Moldova and back,” said Mihai Tirsu, director of the Institute of Energy at Chisinau Technical University.
“When the flow disappears on one segment, it starts overloading the other transmission lines. So the system can function without interruption. But when there are mass blackouts at several stations, the system shuts down because it becomes unbalanced and the protection systems kick in,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been accused of using energy as a weapon against the pro-European Moldovan government after Moscow announced it would cut natural gas supplies to Chisinau.
Moldova’s pro-Western president, Maia Sandu, said Russia’s decision to cut gas supplies to her country amounted to “political blackmail” and an attempt to “cynically exploit people’s plight” and distract the country from its path to EU membership.
Moldova became a candidate for EU membership in June, on the same day as Ukraine.
In response, Chisinau turned to Romania, which now supplies about 90% of its electricity.
But Moldovans are still feeling the blows of the energy crisis.
“We only turn on the heating at night, turn off the lights. The more we do it, the better it is for our energy consumption and for our pockets,” said Valeriu, a resident of Chisinau.
The EU has promised 250 million euros to help the former Soviet republic solve the energy crisis.