Putin to visit Hungary on 2 February

Orbán and Putin on 17 February 2017 in Moscow. [Kremlin]

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Budapest on February 2 for talks with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian government said yesterday (19 January).

The controversial Orbán is a big admirer of US President-elect Donald Trump, due to be inaugurated today (20 January), who has said he wants to improve relations with Putin.

Orbán’s chief-of-staff, János Lázár, told reporters that the two will discuss “current socio-political and economic questions” in an “important” but not “exceptional” meeting.

He said 2017 “will be an important year in foreign politics, not just because of the new US president or Brexit. In place of multilateral cooperation, comes an era of bilateral cooperation.”

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not explicitly confirm the date, saying only that Putin’s visit was “being prepared” for February.

“It will be a working visit” focusing mainly on energy issues, Peskov was quoted by RIA Novsti news agency as saying.

Putin visited Orbán in Budapest in 2015, his first trip to the European Union after Russia annexed Crimea the previous year. Orbán visited Moscow last year.

Putin and Orbán contemplate stronger energy ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to continue supplying gas to Hungary on Tuesday (17 February) during a visit to Budapest, cementing the EU member state’s growing ties to the Kremlin, as the rest of Europe distances itself from Moscow over its Ukraine policy.

The Hungarian press wrote that Orbán holds the dubious title of being the European leader to have had the most bilateral talks with the Russian President.

Orbán: Good ties with Russia and Germany are essential

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Wednesday (4 February) that his main foreign policy goal was maintaining good ties with Russia and Germany, adding that the United States was an important partner, but not the central focus of foreign policy.

The rightwing Orbán has in the past called for EU sanctions on Russia to be lifted. However, every six months Hungary has agreed that sanctions should be renewed.

Orbán complains about Tusk over the EU's Russia policy

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stepped up his criticism on Wednesday (18 February) of his European allies for their policy of seeking to isolate Moscow over its intervention in Ukraine, naming top EU official Donald Tusk as one of its backers.

Orbán, who opposes immigration and whose revamp of state institutions has raised concerns about democratic norms in the EU member state, enthusiastically welcomed Trump’s election victory.

“We are living in great days and great times,” Orbán said in November.

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Donald Trump’s victory in the US elections took most of the EU countries by surprise. A majority of leaders appeared apprehensive of the consequences, with the exception of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, for whom Trump’s election is “great news” and a proof that “democracy is still alive”. This article will be updated as reactions keep arriving.

Putin and the Hungarian leader are expected to discuss Russia’s planned expansion of Hungary’s only nuclear power plant and other energy issues, with Hungary highly dependent on Russian gas imports.

Commission notes cast doubt over approval of Russian-backed nuclear project

EXCLUSIVE/ The European Commission was prepared to spoon-feed arguments to Hungary to close an investigation into the controversial €12 billion Paks II nuclear plant project, according to documents obtained by EURACTIV.com

The visit has not yet been confirmed by Moscow.