A view of an apartment building, damaged during a heavy fighting, in Mariupol, in Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. AP
The U.S. Agency for International Development said the funds will be paid to Moldova — one of Europe’s poorest countries, landlocked between Ukraine and Romania — through a World Bank trust fund. Some of the funds will be used to reimburse the country for previous electricity purchases.
USAID said that as Moldova began to recover from a recent “series of severe shocks" including the COVID-19 pandemic and a fourfold increase in natural gas prices, the war in Ukraine has placed its “short-term economic recovery and its long-term economic prospects at risk.”
In a statement, the agency called the aid “critical" because of the war's impact.
Since Moscow's forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Moldova — a former Soviet republic with a population of about 2.6 million — has lurched from crisis to crisis.
These include large arrivals of refugees fleeing safety from the war next door and an acute energy crisis that worsened after Moscow — on which Moldova was entirely dependent for natural gas — dramatically reduced supplies. Additionally, skyrocketing inflation left some officials worried citizens would be unable to pay their winter energy bills.
In recent months, Moldova has also suffered broad power outages as a result of Russia’s bombardment of Ukraine’s energy grid, to which Moldova’s Soviet-era systems remain interconnected.
Moldovan President Maia Sandu said in a video message posted on Twitter Thursday by USAID Chief Samantha Power that Moldova “is going to feel the consequences of Russia’s war for a long time.”
“We already face hardship and difficulties,” Sandu said. “This investment will help us alleviate some of the budgetary pressures we face ... it will help us maintain stability in the country and it will help us continue (implementing) reforms — Moldova does need the support of its international partners."
Moldova is now seeking closer ties with the West. In June, it was granted candidate status for Europe Union membership — the same day as Ukraine.
USAID said that since February, the U.S. has provided Moldova with $320 million in emergency support. Last year, hundreds of millions of euros were also raised for Moldova at various donors' conferences to help the country mitigate the fallout of the war.
A string of troublesome incidents since the conflict next door started have at times raised concerns that non-NATO, militarily neutral Moldova could get dragged into Moscow’s war orbit.
In late October, a Russian missile landed in the Moldovan town of Naslavcea near the Ukraine border, and last month missile debris was also found in an orchard in another border town, which also caused alarm.