Correspondent in Moscow
In the midst of the greatest tensions since the Cold War between Russia and the West on behalf of Ukraine, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán visited his “friend”, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Moscow on Tuesday. They talked mainly about the supply of Russian gas to Hungary, but also security in Europe. Putin promised to keep him informed about the evolution of the ongoing talks with the US and NATO on the “security guarantees” that Moscow demands.
Orbán, for his part, assured that “no European leader wants war (…) we are in favor of solutions of a political nature” and called his current trip to Russia a “peace mission”. “The first time we met was 13 years ago and this is our twelfth meeting.
Almost all of my former EU colleagues are no longer (…) and, honestly, I have no plans to leave. There are elections in April. I am going to win, so I have the reasonable assumption that we will continue to see each other in the future,” the head of the Hungarian government told the top Russian leader, assuming that his Russian colleague will still be in the Kremlin for a long time.
Gas at a good price
Putin flattered him by pointing out that Orbán, his closest ally in the EU, «has done a lot for the interests of Hungary and Russia». In the field of energy, the Russian president said that Hungary has signed a gas supply contract with Gazprom until 2036 “which has the lowest price in all of Europe.” The Hungarian Prime Minister thanked him profusely.
The agreement was signed in September 2021 for 15 years for a volume of 4,500 million cubic meters of gas through two routes that will avoid Ukraine, through Austria and Serbia. Circumstance that already provoked the protests in Kiev, since, until then, the gas destined for Hungary circulated through the Ukrainian gas pipelines. Budapest maintains complicated relations with Kiev due to the alleged treatment of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine. Orbán is also against NATO reinforcing its device in Eastern Europe in the face of the Russian threat to Ukraine, by including Hungary in the deployment.
Another area that highlights the good harmony between Moscow and Budapest is the health. Hungary was the first European country to introduce the Russian Sputnik V vaccine., despite not being approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The Hungarian Prime Minister has always been against the application of sanctions against Moscow. The two leaders sat today at a long table, about five meters away from each other. Putin joked that “it is the separation that marks social distancing, but it is better to talk like that than on the phone.”