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Hungary Summons Ukrainian Envoy Over Criticism Of Russian Gas Supply Deal

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Hungarian Peter Szijjarto announces the signing of a long-term gas deal with Gazprom on September 27.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has summoned Ukraine's ambassador over what he said was Kyiv's attempts to block Budapest's new long-term gas supply deal with Russia, which was signed on September 27.

In a September 28 post on Facebook, Szijjarto denounced Ukraine’s criticism of the new 15-year natural-gas supply deal with Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom as a "serious violation of Hungary’s sovereignty."

Executives of Hungarian energy group MVM signed the gas deal with Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller on September 27 at the Foreign Ministry in Budapest.

The deal reroutes Russian natural gas exports bound for Hungary through a new pipeline under the Black Sea to Turkey that extends further on to Central Europe, circumventing a shorter land route through Ukraine and depriving Kyiv of millions of dollars in transit fees.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry called Hungary's supply deal a "purely political, economically unreasonable decision" that was made “to the detriment of Ukraine's national interests and Ukrainian-Hungarian relations.”

The Ukrainian statement said the deal would have "a significant impact on the energy security of Ukraine and Europe," and that it will ask the European Commission to assess whether the agreement respected European energy legislation.

Szijjarto wrote in his Facebook message that the Ukrainian government's decision to attack the deal was "deeply upsetting" and amounted to an "unfriendly step."

On September 27, Szijjarto told a news conference that for Hungary, “energy safety is a matter of security, sovereignty, and economy rather than a political matter."

"You cannot heat homes with political statements," Szijjarto added.

A Gazprom statement quoted Miller as saying that Hungary “will start receiving Gazprom's gas starting from October 1 already via TurkStream and the pipelines of South-Eastern Europe."

Under the deal, Gazprom would ship 4.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Hungary annually, allowing for the supply of around half of Hungary's annual gas consumption.

There were no immediate comments from the EU executive.

The United States has opposed the extension of the TurkStream pipeline into Bulgaria, Serbia, and further on to Hungary, saying it strengthens the Kremlin’s grip on Europe’s energy industry.

When contacted by RFE/RL, the U.S. State Department declined to comment on Hungary’s new gas deal with Russia, saying instead that it supports efforts to strengthen energy infrastructure connectivity in Central and Eastern Europe “more closely with the rest of the EU but also to the United States.”

The United States is seeking to export more liquefied natural gas to ports on the Adriatic and Aegean Seas to help diversify energy supplies to Central and Eastern Europe.

Russia, which used to ship natural gas primarily through Ukraine, has diversified export routes, constructing the Nord Stream pipelines to Germany and the TurkStream link to Turkey.

Hungary has relied on Russia for most of its natural gas imports delivered via a pipeline through Ukraine, but in recent years it has diversified gas imports, opening cross-border interconnectors with most of its neighbors and securing supplies from Royal Dutch Shell via a liquefied natural gas terminal on Croatia's Adriatic island of Krk.

Relations between Hungary and its neighbor Ukraine have been tense for years because of a dispute over the linguistic rights of some 150,000 ethnic Hungarians living in the western Ukrainian region of Transcarpathia.

Kyiv angered Budapest in 2017 with a law restricting the use of minority languages, including Hungarian, in schools.

In response, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's nationalist government blocked Ukraine's efforts to build closer ties with NATO and the European Union, of which Hungary is a member.

With reporting by Reuters
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    RFE/RL's Hungarian Service

    RFE/RL’s Hungarian Service -- closed after the Cold War ended -- was relaunched on September 8, 2020, in response to the country’s steep decline in media freedom. It's an entirely digital service dedicated to serving the public interest by representing a diversity of views and providing reliable, unbiased reporting about the issues audiences care about most.

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