Hungary expects to increase gas imports from Russia

Hungary will seek to increase the amount of gas it receives from Russia at talks with President Vladimir Putin early in February, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

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

Mr Orban, who faces what is expected to be a close-fought election on April 3, has dismissed 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 ... from the levels agreed in the Russian-Hungarian gas contract,” Mr Orban told public radio.

The 15-year agreement, which delivers 4.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year to Hungary on routes avoiding neighbouring Ukraine, took effect in October with an option to modify purchased quantities after 10 years.

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Hungary's gas reserves were 43 percent filled, based on Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority (MEKH) data from January 15. It said that, combined with expected further imports, it would cover 90 percent of Hungary's expected remaining winter gas needs.

Russia-evoked gas crisis in Europe

Russia reduced gas supplies to Europe, orchestrating an energy crisis to force the EU to approve the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline on its own terms and to gain political influences in Europe.

Moscow and the West are also locked in a tense standoff over Ukraine amid a build-up of Russian forces along the country's eastern border as NATO reinforces its presence in eastern Europe.

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

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the United States had approached Hungary about a temporary deployment of US troops in the country, and the Hungarian Defence Ministry was conducting talks on this issue. He did not provide any more details.