A Moldovan government official says work on a pipeline that will transport natural gas from Romania to the Moldovan capital will begin next year.

The pipeline, which is expected to become operational in May 2018, will help lessen the former Soviet republic's dependency on Russia. It is an extension of one running from the northern Romanian city of Iasi to Ungheni, a Moldovan town near the Romanian border.

Valeriu Triboi, Moldova's deputy economy minister said Friday construction of the pipeline from Ungheni to Moldova's capital Chisinau, a city of one million, will begin next spring.

Moldova, which is hoping to join the European Union, hopes to get financial help from the EU. The pipeline is expected to cost at least 83 million euros ($94 million).