Hungary’s newly reelected PM breaks with EU, will pay for Russian gas in rubles

Viktor Orban is once again going against the European Union, saying Hungary will pay for Russian gas with rubles.

“We don’t have any difficulty paying in rubles. If the Russians ask us to, we pay in rubles,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told reporters on Wednesday, according to a tweet by Hungary’s international spokesman Zoltan Kovacs.

Putin has threatened to stop sending gas to Europe if countries that Russia designated as “unfriendly” don’t pay in rubles.

The move is part of an effort to boost the value of the Russian currency by increasing demand for it. The ruble was initially hit hard due to economic sanctions related to the war operation in Ukraine, but the Russian currency has made a stunning recovery.

“If unfriendly countries do not pay in rubles from April 1, we will consider this a default on gas contracts, in which case existing contracts will be stopped,” Putin said after signing a decree on Thursday, according to Russian state news outlet RIA Novosti.

The list of “unfriendly countries,” which received the designation from Russia in response to condemnation of its incursion into Ukraine, includes the US, UK, and EU countries.

Hungary is a member of the EU and NATO, though Orbán is an ally of Putin.

The Hungarian leader referred to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as one of his “opponents” in his victory speech after he was re-elected to a fourth term. Orbán ran on a platform of “peace and security,” telling Hungarians he could keep them safe from the consequences of the war in Ukraine.

Other European leaders have rejected Putin’s demands to pay for Russian gas in rubles.

Germany — Europe’s largest economy — has already activated an emergency plan to deal with disruptions to its natural-gas supply.