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PM Orbán defends Russia ties at press conference with Putin

November 1st, 2019

In the wake of President Putin’s visit to Budapest, commentators express diametrically opposed views on the meaning of Hungary’s co-operation with Russia.

At the press conference held by the two leaders at the end of their five-hour meeting, PM Orbán said Hungary has lived for a thousand years at the centre of the Moscow–Berlin–Istanbul triangle and “one cannot arbitrarily change the number on one’s door”. He also said Hungary is and will remain a member of NATO and the EU but that doesn’t prevent her from building fruitful relations with other countries.

In his summary of Putin’s one day visit to Budapest on hvg.hu, András Németh acknowledges that relations with Putin’s Russia started improving in the 2000s, under the latest left-wing government, but that was before the annexation of the Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. He enumerates the series of agreements signed this time on cooperation in various fields, including oil and gas supplies and mentions that Putin seemed inclined to reduce Hungary’s trade deficit with Russia. All in all, however, he suggests that the main message of the summit was an attempt to justify bilateral rapprochement and dismiss as groundless the suspicion that Hungary is Russia’s ’Trojan horse’ in Europe.

In Magyar Nemzet, Levente Sitkei excoriates opposition politicians who ‘demonise’ the Russian president. As a matter of fact, he argues, this is about energy prices, long term stability, geopolitics and investment projects. He finds it salutary for the Hungarian government to ’take things at their real value and refuse to adopt the western narrative’ about Russia. The pro-government politician suspects that the criticism voiced by opposition leaders is due to their jealousy – they regret, he suggests, that they themselves are not in a position to sign those agreements with Russia.

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