Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán in Moscow – Photo: Kremlin

Putin: Hungary 'important partner' of Russia in Europe

Orbán: Moscow visit ‘peace mission’

"A peace mission" is how Prime Minister Viktor Orbán characterised his visit to Moscow for talks on Tuesday with President Vladimir Putin, saying the European Union was "united", and not a single European leader wanted a conflict with Russia. "This is especially true of central Europe," Orbán said after a five-hour meeting with Putin.

“We can see from history that in times of conflict between East and West, central Europe always lost out,” he said, adding that the Cold War period “brought us great bitterness and suffering”.

Hungarians and central Europeans more broadly have an interest in reducing tensions between East and West and to prevent a return to the Cold War, the prime minister said, adding that this required negotiations and dialogue. Orbán welcomed the “dialogue under way between Russia and our Western allies”.

“What we can offer is the Hungarian model,” he said. Hungary, he noted, is a member of both NATO and the European Union while enjoying “excellent ties” with Russia based on mutual respect.

Substantive talks on increasing the amount of Russian long-term gas deliveries to Hungary by one billion cubic metres a year can move forward, Orbán said.

As the two countries’ long-term gas supply agreement will gain in importance in the future, volume should be increased rather than reduced, he said.

Concerning the upgrade of the Paks nuclear power plant, Orbán noted preparations for the project have entered the final phase, and as soon as the last permit is obtained “the next phase of implementation will automatically start, enabling us Hungarians to take the decisive step towards becoming independent in terms of electricity supply,” Orbán said.

Putin: Hungary ‘important partner’ of Russia in Europe

Hungary is “an important partner” of Russia in Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after the meeting. At the joint press conference afterwards, Putin said that notwithstanding the pandemic, bilateral trade turnover increased by 30 percent to 5.5 billion dollars in the first 11 months of last year, with investments from both sides worth one billion dollars.

The Russian-Hungarian inter-governmental committee for economic cooperation is working effectively and producing results, Putin said.

Hungary has continued to prove that it is a reliable partner when it comes to transit deliveries of Russian natural gas, Putin said. Energy plays an important role in Russian-Hungarian economic relations, Putin noted at a joint press conference after the meeting. He said Russia had been supplying energy to Hungary for many years without interruption, covering 55 percent of its oil consumption and 80 percent of its gas consumption.

Putin noted that Russia supplied gas to Hungary under a long-term agreement and that the bilateral agreement has been extended until 2036.

“Russia is open to further cooperation,” he added.

Szijjarto: Hungary govt seeking to promote East-West dialogue

The Hungarian government aims to further strengthen a recent “wave of dialogue between Western allies and Russia” to ease tension, the foreign ministry quoted Peter Szijjarto as saying in Moscow on Tuesday. The foreign minister had talks with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, after which he noted the recent emergence of “extremely serious tension” in central and eastern Europe, which he said was sharply against Hungary’s national security interests.

Dialogue is the only way to ease that tension “using all diplomatic means”, Szijjarto said. “We have come to Moscow to support that dialogue,” he added.

Szijjarto called recent talks between the West and Russia “good news”, noting two conversations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron over the past few days, and a planned call between Lavrov and US counterpart Antony Blinken later on Tuesday. He added that another call between Putin and British PM Boris Johnson was being negotiated, while a British ministerial delegation could soon visit Moscow.

Szijjarto said 2021 had been the “best year” in Hungary-Russia cooperation and the current talks “have made it clear that Russia is ready to continue, as it benefits both sides”.

At their talks, Szijjarto and Lavrov adopted an action plan concerning cooperation in food production, energy, space research and health, Szijjarto said.

“Last year the cooperation between Hungary and Russia greatly contributed to good responses to health and energy crises in the world, and that cooperation will continue to serve Hungary’s interests in future,” he added.

Nezopont: ‘Relative majority’ of Hungarians having positive view of Putin

Fully 43 percent of Hungarians asked in a Nezopont survey expressed a positive view of Russian President Vladimir Putin, while 36 percent of respondents said they had a negative opinion.

Nezopont gauged Putin’s appreciation in 12 central European countries in November and December last year, and concluded from the results that the Russian president is a divisive politician.

According to the pollster, Hungarians have a “pragmatic” view of the Russian president.

Putin is most popular with Serbs (77pc), while respondents in Poland (10pc) indicated the most negative views about him.

The poll found that Putin was also popular in Bulgaria (60pc), North Macedonia (55pc) and Montenegro (57pc).

The Russian president was less popular with Czechs (25pc), and Romanians (31pc).

Slovenia (34pc), Croatia (37pc) and Austria (21pc) were in the same “pragmatic” category as Hungary.

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