Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán arrives in Kyiv for first visit since start of war — Novaya Gazeta Europe
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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán arrives in Kyiv for first visit since start of war

Viktor Orbán and Volodymyr Zelensky speak at a European Council summit in Brussels, Belgium, 27 June 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET / POOL

Viktor Orbán and Volodymyr Zelensky speak at a European Council summit in Brussels, Belgium, 27 June 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET / POOL

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday morning in a surprise first visit to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, his office told Reuters.

Orbán will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for talks on “the chance to create peace” on Tuesday, his press chief Bertalan Havasi said, adding that the two would also discuss Hungarian-Ukrainian relations.

Reports of Orbán’s unannounced visit first emerged late on Monday evening, with the Guardian reporting that the Hungarian leader would travel to Kyiv following lengthy negotiations between the two countries on the rights of Ukraine’s Hungarian-speaking minority in the west of the country.

The visit comes just days after Orbán spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at a European Council summit in Brussels last week, during which Ukraine and the EU signed a new security agreement which Zelensky said “affirms that Ukraine's future is linked to the European Union”.

Formal negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the EU also opened last week, with both sides eager for talks to begin before Hungary took over the EU’s rotating presidency for the next six months on Monday.

While Orbán publicly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, he has since earned the reputation of Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the European Union, frequently opposing EU initiatives to send aid to Ukraine and calling on Kyiv to negotiate with Russia.

The Hungarian leader has previously said that Ukraine is “no longer sovereign” due to its dependence on Western financial support and claimed that the country’s best bet would be to become a “buffer zone” between Russia and the West.

In a rare move for the leader of an EU and NATO member state, Orbán met with Vladimir Putin at a summit in Beijing in October, during which he reaffirmed Hungary’s “commitment to bilateral ties” with Russia despite its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, while Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó has also made at least five official visits to Moscow since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbour in 2022.

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