Putin heads for Hungary

Vladimir Putin has chosen Hungary for his first state visit to an EU state since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis a year ago. Energy issues are expected to top the agenda, yet the Russian leader usually has an ace up his sleeve.

The Russian president’s visit to Hungary is keeping EU officials in Brussels guessing about what sort of deals exactly are going to be signed in Budapest.

Putin is visiting Prime Minister Viktor Orban at a time of unprecedented confrontation between the western world and Russia over the bloody conflict in Ukraine.

The EU has broadened its anti-Russian sanctions on Monday, expanding the blacklist with 19 more people and nine new companies. The EU blacklist now includes 151 citizens of Russia and Ukraine’s self-proclaimed eastern republics, as well as 37 Russian companies.

The Kremlin press service said that talks of the Russian and Hungarian leaders will focus on bilateral economic and trade relations, and in particular the nuclear energy deal signed in December.

Under a deal worth up to €10 billion, Russia’s Rosatom will build a 2,000 megawatt addition to Hungary’s state-owned nuclear power plant MVM Paksi Atomeromu.

Orban is famous for his skeptical attitude towards many European Union’s policies, particularly Brussels’ siding with the US in the sanctions against Russia, a campaign that damages ailing European economies.

Despite all the accusations, Orban’s Fidesz party won last year’s general election with a landslide victory, receiving practically 45 percent of votes and securing Orban’s third term as the Hungarian prime minister.

Prime Minister’s supporters view his action as defending Hungary’s national interests against agendas of international corporations and foreign governments. Among the biggest successes of the Orban government was the law that forced conversion of mortgages denominated in Swiss francs, which saved Hungarian borrowers from suffering a debt cost hike after Switzerland unpegged their currency from the euro, which resulted in sharp 20 percent gain in value.