Hungary will seek more Russian gas amid energy crisis, says Orban

BUDAPEST, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Hungary will seek to increase the amount of gas it receives from Russia in talks with President Vladimir Putin next week, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

Hungary, a member of the European Union and NATO, concluded a new long-term gas supply agreement with Russia’s Gazprom in August.

Moscow and the West are locked in a tense standoff over Ukraine amid a buildup of Russian forces along the country’s eastern border as NATO bolsters its presence in Eastern Europe. Read more

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Orban, who faces what is expected to be a close election on April 3, has rejected calls from a unified opposition to cancel his visit to Moscow, scheduled for Tuesday.

“I would like to increase the amount of gas to be delivered (…) compared to the levels agreed in the Russian-Hungarian gas contract,” Orban told public radio.

The 15-year deal, which delivers 4.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year to Hungary on routes bypassing neighboring Ukraine, came into effect in October with an option to change quantities purchased after 10 years .

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a briefing on Friday that he had proposed to Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak to increase annual shipments of Russian gas via Serbia by one billion cubic meters and that Orban would discuss it with President Putin on Tuesday.

Hungary’s gas reserves were 43% full, according to January 15 data from the Energy and Utilities Regulatory Authority (MEKH). He said that, combined with the expected additional imports, would cover 90% of Hungary’s expected remaining winter gas needs.

Orban said he would also discuss European security with Putin, adding that Hungary was interested in a peaceful resolution to the Ukrainian standoff.

“Of course Hungary is a member of NATO and the EU, so before every such meeting I consult and coordinate with our Western allies,” Orban said, adding that he would have further discussions with him. Western leaders in the coming days.

Szijjarto said the United States had approached Hungary about a temporary deployment of American troops in the country, and that the Hungarian Ministry of Defense was conducting talks on this issue. He did not provide further details.

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Reporting by Gergely Szakacs, additional reporting by Anita Komuves; edited by Jason Neely, John Stonestreet and David Evans

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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