Russia’s Putin, Hungary’s Orban reaffirm bond ahead of Beijing summit

The two leaders discussed strengthening energy ties despite geopolitical strains due to the Ukraine war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Beijing, China, October 17, 2023. (Sputnik/Grigory Sysoyev/Pool via REUTERS)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban have reaffirmed their ties on the sidelines of a summit in China [Grigory Sysoyev/Pool via Reuters]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban have underscored their countries’ strong ties ahead of an international forum in Beijing, saying that continuing “geopolitical tensions” due to the war in Ukraine do not affect their relationship.

“Despite the fact that in the current geopolitical conditions, the possibilities for keeping contact and developing relations are very limited, it cannot but cause satisfaction that our ties with many European countries are maintained and developed,” Putin said, according to Russian news agencies.

“One of those countries is Hungary.”

Hungary, which is a member of the European Union and NATO but also has close ties with Moscow, has had its allegiances put to the test over the war in Ukraine.

Since Russia’s invasion, Budapest has blocked weapons from passing through its territory to reach Ukraine and deepened energy ties with Moscow despite EU sanctions on Russian oil.

Budapest is expected to play a decisive role in Ukraine’s bid to join the EU, positioning itself as a potential opponent to a December vote on accession talks.

The EU is considering releasing billions of dollars in aid to Hungary that has been blocked over alleged rule-of-law violations in order to win Hungary over on the vote, which requires unanimous approval from EU members.

Hungary is expected to use the Beijing summit as an opportunity to shore up close energy ties with Russia, from which it receives at least 80 percent of its gas.

During Putin and Orban’s meeting, the leaders discussed gas and oil shipments and nuclear energy issues, Orban’s press chief Bertalan Havasi told the Reuters news agency.

Orban also reportedly stressed the need for an end to sanctions on Russia and the fighting in Ukraine.

The two leaders are joining numerous Southeast Asian and African leaders in Beijing for a two-day event celebrating the 10th anniversary of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a mammoth infrastructure development strategy that spans more than 150 countries.

Putin, one of the highest-profile leaders to attend the summit, said he hopes to link up with China’s efforts through an alliance of former Soviet Union nations to “achieve common development goals.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies