Hungary’s Orbán, Putin discuss Ukraine in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban enter a hall to attend a joint news conference in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Friday, July 5, 2024

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Viktor Orbán

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán visited Moscow on Friday for a rare meeting by a European leader with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discussed peace proposals for Ukraine, which triggered condemnation from Kyiv and some European leaders and officials.

Orbán’s visit comes only days after he made a similar unannounced trip to Ukraine, where he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and proposed that Ukraine consider agreeing to an immediate cease-fire with Russia.

“The number of countries that can talk to both warring sides is diminishing,” Orbán said. “Hungary is slowly becoming the only country in Europe that can speak to everyone.”

Hungary assumed the rotating presidency of the EU at the beginning of July and, in comments at the beginning of their meeting that were televised, Putin suggested that Orbán had come to Moscow as a representative of the European Council. Several European officials — including the leaders of Germany, Denmark and Estonia — dismissed that suggestion and said Orbán had no mandate for anything beyond a discussion about bilateral relations.

Orbán said he told Putin that “Europe needs peace,” adding that he asked Putin for his thoughts on existing peace plans and whether he believed a cease-fire could precede any potential peace talks.

In a statement after their meeting, Putin repeated a previous demand that Ukraine withdraw its troops from the four regions that Russia claims to have annexed in 2022 as a condition for peace talks. Ukraine and its Western allies have rejected that demand, suggesting it is akin to asking Ukraine to withdraw from Ukrainian territory.

Putin also emphasized that Russia wouldn’t accept any cease-fire or temporary break in hostilities that would allow Ukraine “to recoup losses, regroup and rearm.”

The two leaders also discussed bilateral relations, and Putin said they exchanged views on the current state of Russia-EU relations which are “now at their lowest point.”

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