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Orbán blasts sanctions; Putin promises gas, Paks credit

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called for an end to sanctions against Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the extension of a contract to supply natural gas to Hungary, while promising to maintain credit for the Paks nuclear plant upgrade, at a press conference following talks between the leaders in Novo-Ogaryovo, near Moscow, yesterday.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaking during his press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Novo-Ogaryovo yesterday. (Photo: MTI/Szilárd Koszticsák)

Orbán said Russia and the EU should cooperate, as they cannot afford to fall behind in competitiveness. “It is not possible to automatically extend the sanctions against Russia this year,” he said, according to Hungarian news agency MTI.

Putin said he had reassured Orbán at their meeting that Russia is prepared to fulfill all of its commitments pertaining to the deal, which includes a €10 billion loan. Russia gave notice last month that it would have to cut back on some of its foreign aid, but later said that this would not impact the Paks deal. Russian firm Rosatom is upgrading two reactors at Hungary’s only nuclear power plant for a total cost of €12 billion, and 80% of the price tag will be supported by the Russian loan. Orbán said cooperation with Russia on the upgrade of the Paks nuclear power plant was the “deal of the century,” adding that he did not understand why the project was so heavily disputed internationally, MTI reported. He said Hungary and Russia had been working on this project since the 1960s, and all that was happening now was an extension of that agreement.

In another energy matter, Putin announced that long-term Russia-Hungary gas supply contracts have been extended to the end of 2019.

The Russian president also said Moscow welcomes Hungarian companiesʼ participation in infrastructure development projects in connection with the 2018 soccer World Cup, to be held in Russia. Putin said bilateral ties could be boosted in cultural, humanitarian and educational areas. He said Russia would extend 120 scholarships for Hungarian students at Russian universities and regional cooperation would also be encouraged and supported by an intergovernmental committee.

Putin noted that Russian investments in Hungary exceed $1.5 billion dollars, while Hungarian companies have invested more than $2 bln in Russia.

Regarding Europeʼs migrant crisis, Putin said the key to resolving the crisis was to end terrorism and to stabilize crisis-ridden territories in the Middle East and North Africa. Orbán reiterated Hungaryʼs opposition to the EUʼs refugee quota scheme, saying Hungarians should be allowed to decide “who they wanted to live with”.