Vladimir Putin To Host EU Ally Hungary’s Orban Amid Ukraine Crisis
Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will host talks on Tuesday with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has taken a softer line on the Ukraine crisis than NATO and the European Union, with Hungary a member of both.
The Kremlin said the leaders would discuss trade and energy as well as “current problems related to ensuring European security”, referring to the confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
Orban said he would seek an agreement to increase Hungary’s gas imports from Russia at a time when some in Europe accuse Russia of orchestrating an energy crisis to put pressure on European countries.
Hungary’s opposition parties issued a joint statement over the weekend calling on Orban to cancel his trip, which they said “contradicts our national interests”.
The Hungarian opposition said that by meeting with Putin, Orban “indirectly encourages the Russian president to further escalate the current tense situation.”
US President Joe Biden has accused Russia of plans to invade Ukraine soon while massing its forces on the border and warned of severe economic sanctions if it did.
The trip is also likely to be uncomfortable with Hungary’s closest EU allies, most notably Poland.
Warsaw has presented a united front with Budapest against Brussels on issues such as the rule of law, but has long resented Orban’s ties to Putin.
On the same day that Orban visits Moscow, his close ally, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, is heading to Kiev to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is backed by the West.
Peace and de-escalation
At a meeting of European conservatives organized by the Spanish far-right in Madrid over the weekend that Morawiecki also attended, Orban said Ukraine was a “very important issue” for those in central Europe.
He stressed that he is with “peace and de-escalation,” according to his office.
But it did not echo the general concern of the European Union about the increase of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border.
Hungary, which joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004, has taken a softer line toward Ukraine, with which it shares a small land border.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that Budapest was negotiating a US request to deploy NATO forces to Hungary, but called reports that it could number up to 1,000 troops “fake news”.
He said earlier that Hungary is a loyal member of NATO, but does not want a “new cold war”.
Biden announced plans to send US forces to NATO countries in Eastern Europe, but not to Ukraine itself, which is not a member of the transatlantic alliance.
Orban is popular at home, despite accusations by critics of rampant corruption and of leading Hungary toward authoritarianism.
The Moscow visit comes just two months before the crucial elections in Hungary, where opinion polls indicate a close race between Orban and a unified opposition coalition.
Under the leadership of Orbán, who began his political career in the anti-Soviet Hungarian democracy movement, Budapest has been one of Russia’s closest partners in the European Union.
In a sign of friendship, Hungary was the first member of the bloc to approve Moscow’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which has yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
(This story has not been edited by the NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)