© ReutersHungarian PM Viktor Orban
A Kremlin spokesman has praised a stubbornly allied Hungarian leadership for what it describes as Budapest's willingness to take "sovereign positions" on issues within the European Union.

The September 19 statement from Russian President Vladimir Putin's office came in a conference call between spokesman Dmitry Peskov and reporters. He said the Kremlin is following the EU-Hungary developments closely.

A day earlier, the European Commission called for the elimination of 7.5 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in EU funding earmarked for Hungary over corruption, rights, and rule-of-law disputes.

Critics in Brussels have argued that cronyism under Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party's 12-year leadership, year-old anti-LGBT legislation, and other backsliding threaten shared EU values.

The European Commission's proposal to cut off billions in so-called cohesion funds to Budapest was the first to be made by the EU under new policies aimed at protecting the rule of law in the 27-nation bloc.

The next EU step requires support by what's called a qualified majority, representing at least 55 percent of the member states and at least 65 percent of the total EU population.

Hungary has until November 19 to address the concerns, and some of its officials have pledged to form an anti-corruption body and make other moves to allay EU concerns.

Hungary's minister in charge of EU negotiations, Tibor Navracsics, said after the European Commission's recommendation that there was "a good chance" his government would be able to sign an agreement over the use of European funds by the end of the year.

Last week, the European Parliament approved a resolution saying Hungary was no longer a "full democracy," prompting Fidesz to accuse it of "attacking Hungary again."

Orban has resisted European unity over gas and economic sanctions to punish Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and otherwise cozied up to Moscow, including traveling to Moscow this month for the funeral of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and sending his foreign minister to Moscow for a surprise visit in July.

Orban was reelected for a fourth consecutive term in April.