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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
The visit has not yet been confirmed by Moscow.