“What we have seen during the past few weeks is brutal Russian pressure against the partnership countries of a sort that we haven’t seen in Europe for a very long time,” Bildt told reporters during a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius on Saturday.
He was referring to the post-soviet states Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, in which the EU supports democratic reforms under the so-called program “Eastern Partnership”.
“I see they have been threatening Moldova with a cut-off in gas supplies as well as a cut-off in wine exports,” Bildt said. “This is economic warfare.”
He claims that Russia takes advantage of the international focus being on Syria, quietly pressuring the post-soviet states.
Last week, Russia warned Moldova that its pro-Europe stance could lead to a more costly energy relationship to its biggest gas supplier, Russia. Dimitry Rogozin, the Russian deputy prime minister, said on a visit to Moldova: “Energy supplies are important in the run-up to winter. I hope you won’t freeze.”
Moldova’s leaders declared that they won’t change their course towards more trade with the European Union.
In November, the EU will hold a summit in Vilnius, discussing new free trade agreements with the former soviet countries.
Russia criticized the “Eastern Partnership” as an attempt by the European Union to gain more influence in the region in its outlook for oil. Sweden, together with Poland the leader of the program, reject these accusations.
“You can have good relations with Moscow and still be a part of the European family,” Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said in Vilnius. “I don’t understand why some people in Moscow seem to think that there is only one choice countries can make.”