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Hungary in talks with Russia about buying more gas

·2-min read
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto in Moscow

(Reuters) - Russia will consider a request from Hungary to buy more Russian gas, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday, after meeting his Hungarian counterpart in Moscow.

Lavrov was speaking during a visit to Moscow by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

European Union member Hungary has maintained what it calls pragmatic relations with Moscow since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, creating tensions with some EU allies keen to take a tougher line. Hungary, which is about 85% dependent on Russian gas, firmly opposes the idea of any EU sanctions on Russian gas imports.

Szijjarto told a news conference that in order to ensure safety of supplies, Hungary needed a further 700 million cubic meters of gas on top of an existing long-term supply deal with Russia.

"Looking at the current market situation, like it or not ... without Russian sources it would not be possible to buy an additional 700 million cubic meters of gas," Szijjarto said, adding that talks were under way with Russia about the additional purchases.

Lavrov told the news conference that Russia would consider the Hungarian request to increase gas purchases.

Szijjarto said Hungary's gas storages had been filled to a level that covers just over 27% of the country's annual consumption needs.

"My goal is to complete the talks as soon as possible," he added, reiterating that Hungary wanted a ceasefire and peace talks to end the war in Ukraine.

Szijjarto has also held talks with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak and Denis Manturov, Russia's deputy prime minister and minister of industry and trade, the Russian government said in a statement.

"Today the political situation is rather complicated, but we appreciate the position of the Hungarian government, which consistently defends its national interests. We are determined to further develop our relations, including in the energy sector," Novak told Szijjarto, according to the statement.

Under a 15-year deal with Russian energy giant Gazprom signed last year, Hungary receives 3.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas per year via Bulgaria and Serbia, and a further 1 bcm via a pipeline from Austria.

Szijjarto said on Monday that Hungary was in talks with Russia about redirecting all of its gas shipments under the long-term supply deal to the Turkstream pipeline that brings gas to Hungary via Serbia. The ministers did not mention this topic at Thursday's news conference.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Nick Macfie, Mark Potter and Leslie Adler)

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