Hungary Hosted Russian Minister to "Keep Channels Open"

Wednesday, 5 July 2023

The Russian Minister of Health arrived in Hungary, marking a rare visit by a member of the Russian cabinet to an EU and NATO member state, with Budapest saying it wanted to keep communications channels open.

As reported by Reuters, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó held a joint press conference in Budapest with visiting Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko. Hungary wanted to keep "channels of communications open" with Russia and pursue "sensible and pragmatic cooperation", Szijjártó said.

Szijjártó condemned the war in general terms and called for peaceful negotiations, but criticised the supply of weapons to Ukraine and did not directly accuse Russia of aggression.

"We condemn the war in the most decisive manner, but at the same time we think weapons shipments prolong the war," Szijjártó said, reiterating that Hungary would not send arms.

Szijjarto also said he expects that Russia's nuclear energy agency Rosatom will build two new reactors at Hungary's Paks nuclear power plant by 2030 and 2031 as agreed under a 2014 contract that has so far met with major delays.

He reiterated that Hungary will not support the disbursement of the next tranche of the European Peace Facility, an EU aid programme for Ukraine, until Kyiv removes Hungary's OTP Bank from its list of "international sponsors of war".

Murashko told the press briefing that Moscow would support the operation of Hungarian companies present in Russia. OTP and Hungarian drug maker Richter both have operations in Russia.

"We will support the work of Hungarian companies in the Russian Federation," Murashko said via an interpreter. Regarding the nuclear plant, he said: "Paks is a project that we are implementing together, and both parties are interested in realizing this project according to the agreement."

Under the leadership of nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Hungary remains the only EU and NATO member that maintains close relations with Moscow, even after Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year.

Hungary still receives a significant portion of its oil and natural gas from Russia, stating that it is seeking to diversify its sources of supply, even as the rest of the EU has largely ceased Russian imports.

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