CHISINAU, December 21 (RIA Novosti, Vladimir Novosadyuk) - Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin said Wednesday he did not welcome the increase in the price for Russian natural gas but believes the new price would be within the country's economic means.
"Clearly, nothing good will come of the increased gas price," the president said at a press conference in the Moldovan capital. "I am not going to welcome it."
Russia is offering Moldova a price of $160 per 1,000 cubic meters. Talks on the issue are ongoing.
"This is of course a trial for Moldova, but we will withstand this trial," he said, pledging to ensure that the people would not suffer.
"This year the Moldovan economy grew 8.6%, and the new price may lower our growth and the standard of living of our people. A substantial part of the budget will have to be redirected to paying [Russian energy giant] Gazprom," he said.
Voronin said, "The previous price for Moldova was $80, and this was the highest price among the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries, equal to that paid by the Baltic countries, who are NATO and EU members."
The Moldovan president said: "Of the list of new prices being offered by Gazprom, there are no obvious political conclusions to be made... Azerbaijan, as a member of GUAM [an alliance of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova], will pay less for gas than Armenia, a military partner of Russia and member of the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization]."
The president said Moldova never based its relations with Russia "on the gas situation."
"We base our relations on the fact that Russian culture and the Russian language in Moldova have always been symbols of the Europeanness of our country and a part of the Moldovan national inheritance. We have built our relations on the fact that our fathers and grandfathers fought together against the fascist plague and won a united victory."
Moldova's approach has not been duly appreciated in Russia, he said.
"We have protected and still protect Russian culture in Moldova," Voronin said, noting that no Russian schools have been closed in the republic, the number of Russians in college is on the increase, the Russian press dominates the media, and Moldovan citizens all have equal rights irrespective of ethnicity.
All Moldovans will be very disappointed by any worsening in relations with Russia, he said.
Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin previously said, "The time when Russia pursued a policy of semi-subsidizing neighboring economies is gradually coming to an end. We must focus on our own interests."
During 2005, Russia sold gas to Belarus at $44, Armenia at $54, Georgia at $60, the Baltic states at $85-90, and Germany at $120.
The new prices negotiated for 2006 are as follows: $47 for Belarus, $110 for Armenia, $110 for Georgia, $120-$125 for the Baltic states, and $160 for Germany.
Russia has so far been unable to reach an agreement with Ukraine on the issue and is currently demanding $220-$230.