Russia and Hungary agreed to a gas import deal on Tuesday, according to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban, who hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin in Budapest on Tuesday, said he and Putin came to a “political agreement” over the deal and that “technical” details needed to be hammered out, according to the Associated Press.
The gas deal was the top priority of Putin’s visit, according to Politics.hu, which cited a Russian presidential aide. Five pacts were composed prior to the meeting, including one outlining Russian financial and technical support for Hungary’s lone nuclear power plant and others on health and education cooperation.
Orban has become one of Putin’s strongest allies in Europe over the last year, as the relationship between the Russian president and other European Union states soured over the crisis in Ukraine. The EU adopted three rounds of economic sanctions on Russian businessmen and politicians, including many of Putin’s closest allies.
Russia is Hungary’s largest supplier of carbon-based fuel. The South Stream project, which would have supplied gas to many Western and Central European countries, fell through last year over regulations concerns and the crisis in Ukraine. The Putin-Orban deal could tack Hungary on to the “Turk Stream” line, which would run under the Black Sea and into Southern Europe through Turkey, according to Natural Gas Europe.
Putin took some time during a press conference with Orban on Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Putin was part of negotiations in Minsk, Belarus, last week to outline a ceasefire agreement between the Ukrainian government and what the West calls Russian-backed separatists. Putin denies his military is supporting or supplying rebels.
He called on Ukraine to allow its soldiers surrounded in the strategic town of Debaltseve to surrender, leave and be free from prosecution. He also accused Western nations of supplying the Ukrainian military with weapons, even though leaders in the U.S., NATO and the EU have all stated they are not interested in supplying weapons yet. U.S. President Barack Obama was weighing the decision as recently as a week ago.
“According to our information, the arms are already being delivered,” Putin said, although he did not offer any evidence for the claim. NATO released satellite photos last year showing Russian military equipment operating in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border.
Putin: “To lose is always painful. It’s a hardship especially when you lose to yesterday’s miners and tractor drivers. But life is life."
â€” Paul Sonne (@PaulSonne) February 17, 2015
Putin added that he was “optimistic” about the likelihood of the Minsk agreement being implemented fully. An English translation of Putin and Orban’s press conference, via RT: