BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban plans to meet with President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 1 to discuss progress on a Russian-backed project to expand a Hungarian nuclear power plant, the minister said Thursday. Hungarian Foreign Affairs.
Speaking on the sidelines of a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told Russian news agency Tass that Hungary wanted the project “to enter the development phase. ‘establishment’ in the first half of this year.
The 12 billion euro ($13.6 billion) expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant in central Hungary involves the construction of two new nuclear reactors. The work is being carried out by Russian nuclear energy company Rosatom and funded by a 10 billion euro ($11.3 billion) loan from a Russian state bank.
“We would like to see the two new reactors operational by the end of this decade,” Szijjarto said.
Orban and Putin agreed on the project in 2014, but it has faced numerous delays and clearance issues.
Orban’s nationalist government, which has close ties to Russia under Putin, says the expansion of Hungary’s only nuclear facility is needed to make the country more self-sufficient in its energy production.
Critics of the project say it places Hungary in additional financial and political dependence on Russia and poses environmental and security risks.
Hungary’s foreign minister said increasing the volume of Russian gas supplies under a 15-year contract Russia signed with Hungary last year would also be on the agenda at of Orban’s meeting with Putin.
The contract, which provides for the annual delivery of 4.5 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to Hungary via Serbia and Austria, has angered Ukraine, Hungary’s eastern neighbor.
The Ukrainian government has argued that the deal undermines Ukraine’s national interests by bypassing the country and leading to the loss of lucrative transit payments.
Szijjarto said the Feb. 1 talks between Putin and Orban would also cover Hungary becoming a manufacturer of the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, which Hungary has administered to nearly a million people.
“By the fall, we would like to be a manufacturing location for Sputnik because we see there is a big market for vaccines in the future,” the foreign minister said.
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