July 6, 2017 / 3:00 PM / in 16 days

Hungary sees Russia as 'expansionist', but not aggressive - government aide

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FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attend a news conference following their talks in Budapest, Hungary, February 2, 2017. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Russia pursues an "expansionist" policy in eastern Europe though this might not amount to attempts to destabilise countries in the region, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff said on Thursday.

In a speech in Warsaw earlier U.S. President Donald Trump described Poland as an exemplary ally in building defences to counter Russian "destabilising behaviour".

"Russian politicy is expansionist, not aggressive," Orban's minister Janos Lazar told a news conference, reacting to Trump's comment.

Asked whether Russia was trying to destabilise the region, he said: "It is hard to say. There is great competition between America or Russia to destabilise certain countries."

"Hungary needs to preserve its stability and sovereignty against both, while noting that Hungary is a member of NATO and must always be a friendly ally of America," Lazar added.

Orban's rightwing government, which signed a nuclear plant deal with Russia three years ago, signed an agreement with Gazprom to link the country with the Turkish Stream pipeline by end-2019 on Wednesday.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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