Budapest says EU not involved in Hungary's Gazprom contracts: press
Hungary's foreign minister has said the EU has no involvement in the country's long-term contract with Gazprom for Russian gas imports, Reuters reported April 6.
The government now says it is ready to use rubles to pay for Russian gas, overriding EU opposition to the policy.
Budapest is one of the Kremlin's few allies within the European political bloc, and the government has resisted joining calls for harder EU sanctions on Russian energy imports.
Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto stressed the EU was not involved in its deal with Gazprom. The Russian gas giant expects its first payment at the end of May under a long-term supply agreement entered into with Hungary's state-owned electricity distributor MVM Group last year.
"Our first payment obligation is due at the end of May," said Szijjarto, "The technical solution is there to allow us to be able to pay for the gas we have used, and the technical details of this solution are currently being worked out."
Gazprom was supposed to start only accepting ruble payments for gas dispatched to "unfriendly countries" from April 3. Moscow has threatened to cut supplies to buyers that refuse to use rubles, which must be held in an account owned by state-run Gazprombank.
Brussels says clients can reject Moscow's demand if they have contracts that clearly stipulate payments should be in euros or dollars. It remains to be seen if Gazprom can enforce the rubles-only payment policy, given that ceasing offtake would in some cases violate international contract law.
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban was elected for a fourth consecutive time on April 4. The controversial premier can be expected to maintain close business ties to Moscow, as he has done over his 12-year premiership, but must also now negotiate a diplomatic path within the hostile EU grouping. On April 5, Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Orban must decide whether to align to Moscow and "the other world", and argued he ultimately feared Russian influence, Reuters said.