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Energy issues to be in focus of Putin's visit to Hungary Tuesday

February 17, 2015, 8:29 UTC+3 (updates background
The Russian leader will discuss gas supplies, including the terminated South Stream projects, nuclear energy issues
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Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

© ITAR-TASS/Alexey Druzhinin

MOSCOW, February 17. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to make a working visit to Hungary on Tuesday for talks with the country’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, the presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said.

Also, Putin will have a meeting with Hungarian President Janos Ader and will lay flowers at the monuments to Soviet soldiers who died during the liberation of Hungary in 1945.

Upon arrival in Budapest, Putin will lay a wreath at the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb by the Millennium Monument. He will then take part in the ceremony of reopening a Soviet war memorial at Budapest’s central cemetery. The monument has undergone large-scale restoration.

"Quite naturally, this event has been timed for the 70th anniversary since the liberation of Budapest," Ushakov said.

Putin will lay a wreath to the memorial to Soviet soldiers. Ushakov said in this connection more than 5,000 Soviet Army servicemen are buried in the territory of the complex. Of that number, twenty-one servicemen had the title of Heroes of the Soviet Union.

The Russian President’s talks with Prime Minister Orban are expected to begin after the commemorative functions. They will first talk tete-a-tete and will then be joined by members of their delegations in the format of working dinner.

The two sides are supposed to sign joint documents then, after which Orban and Putin will address a news conference.

A meeting between Presidents Ader and Putin is the last item on the agenda of the visit.

The previous meetings between the Russian President and the Hungarian Prime Minister took place on January 31, 2013, as well as on January 14 and July 13, 2014.

On December 7, 2014, the two leaders had a telephone conversation.

Ready for signing now is a package of five documents, including agreements on cooperation between regions, in the field of higher education, and healthcare, a memorandum on the opening of a Hungarian Consulate General in Kazan, and an agreement on training personnel for the nuclear power industry.

"Russia keeps the position of Hungary’s largest foreign trade partner for a number of years in succession," Ushakov said. Upon the end of 2014, bilateral trade stood at $7.9 billion - down 16% versus 2013.

Accumulated Russian investment in the Hungarian economy has reached $1.5 billion. Hungarian investment in the Russian economy is $0.5 billion bigger.

"The key task at this stage is to abate the swelling tendency towards shrinkage of bilateral trade," Ushakov said.

Cooperation in the gas industry and a possible prolongation of the effective agreement on natural gas supplies to Hungary or the signing of a new one will be a central issue at the negotiations, he said.

"The current contract expires in December 2015 and quite obviously the situation will be discussed - either an extension of the effective document or else the sides will arrange a new one," Ushakov said.

He indicated that Putin and Orban would discuss the issue in the wake of Russia’s forcible renunciation of the South Stream pipeline.

"No doubt, the situation that emerged pending the European Commission’s position, which forced us to wrap up the project and to choose an alternative option, by which gas will be flowing to Europe across the Black Sea (and then via Turkey TASS).

Also, Putin and Orban hope to discuss construction of two new power generating units at the Paks plant.

"The sides will look at practical steps under an agreement on building two new power generating units at the Hungarian nuclear plant at Paks," Ushakov said. "This project costs almost $ 10 billion and 80% of this amount is covered by a Russian loan."

"At present, the plant in Paks also produces 40% of Hungary’s electric power," Ushakov said.

One more issue the sides may take up in the course of the talks is the construction of rolling stock for the Budapest metro at Russian plants.

The Russian holding company Metrovagonmash is ready to submit a bid for a contest where a contractor for supplying 222 coaches for the Budapest metro will be selected to the tune of $ 250 million.

Collaboration in agriculture and healthcare will also come under intensive scrutiny at the talks.

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