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Orban Defends Hungary's Good Relations With Russia

Updated

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (file photo)

During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Budapest, Hungary's prime minister defended his country’s good relations with Moscow and expressed interest in joining a gas pipeline project bypassing Ukraine.

"Hungary is a NATO and EU member, and will stay so, but that does not exclude that in certain questions we engage in cooperation with Russia," Orban told a joint news conference with Putin on October 30.

"That's what we endeavor to do, and will continue to do," he told reporters.

Orban is seen as Putin's closest ally in the European Union, and the Hungarian prime minister has been a strong advocate of the easing of EU sanctions imposed on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

Hungary depends greatly on Russian gas, which the country currently receives in pipelines that cross Ukraine.

In Budapest, Putin said Russia would welcome Hungary to the TurkStream gas pipeline project that will run under the Black Sea, bypassing Ukraine.

"This project is interesting for Hungary from the standpoint of its energy security," the Russian leader said.

The first phase of TurkStream, to supply Turkey first, is expected to go online by the end of the year with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters (bcm). Extensions to Bulgaria and Serbia -- with the same capacity -- are expected to be built the following year.

Putin said that a further extension to Hungary could be built quickly, and Orban said his country was interested in diversifying the routes of gas supply.

"If the Russian gas comes only through Ukraine, that is not good for Hungary," Orban said. "We do not like to depend on any one transit country."

Since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Orban has met at least once a year with Putin -- twice in 2017.

Although Hungary sometimes defends Russia within the 28-member EU, it has never vetoed sanctions against Moscow.

After the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, in Britain in 2018, Hungary expelled a Russian diplomat.

Russia denies being behind the nerve agent attack.

With reporting by Euronews, AP, Reuters, dpa, and AFP
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