Europe News

Putin says EU-Russia ties will return to normal 'sooner or later'

NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he is sure that relations between Russia and the European Union will get back to normal sooner or later.

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“It will happen sooner or later. Relations between Russia and the European Union will be normalized,” Putin said after talks at his residence near Moscow with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The EU imposed sanctions on Russia in response to Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Some European leaders, including Orban, want to restore trade relations with Russia, testing EU solidarity over the issue.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Putin after their talks, Orban said he believed EU economic sanctions against Russia won’t be extended this year, when they are due for renewal.

“I think that in the middle of this year there will be no opportunity to extend sanctions automatically,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

“More and more countries... are starting to realize that we need to cooperate,” he added.

Putin said that Russia will fulfill all its obligations under an agreement to help Hungary to build Paks nuclear power plant.

Russia agreed in 2014 to provide a $10 billion loan to Hungary to cover 80 percent of the costs of building new units at the Paks nuclear power plant, on the Danube river.

Questions have been raised in Hungary about whether Moscow could still afford to provide the financing, after its economy went into recession and it was forced to make deep spending cuts.

Orban has been outspoken in his criticism of EU policy on refugees arriving in Europe, saying they were threatening his country’s national identity and security, and that the bloc should be more resolute in keeping them out.

The Russian president said that Russia sympathizes with Hungary’s view on the refugee crisis, saying it is “defending its European identity”.

Putin said the only way to solve the migrant crisis was to restore political stability in volatile parts of the Middle East and North Africa. He said the prerequisite for that was to “destroy terrorism. That is the number one objective.”

Reporting by Denis Dyomkin, writing by Maria Tsvetkova, editing by Christian Lowe