Dismay in Brussels as Hungary’s Orbán arrives in Moscow to meet Putin — Novaya Gazeta Europe
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Dismay in Brussels as Hungary’s Orbán arrives in Moscow to meet Putin

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán arriving in Moscow, 5 July 2024. Photo: Viktor Orbán / X

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán arriving in Moscow, 5 July 2024. Photo: Viktor Orbán / X

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has arrived in Moscow for talks with Vladimir Putin, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported on Friday, in a surprise visit that has angered many senior European Union officials.

“Appeasement will not stop Putin,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned on X on Friday in response to Orbán’s visit, adding that only “unity and determination will pave the path to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.”

European Council President Charles Michel also condemned Orbán’s visit, writing on X that the EU’s rotating presidency, which Hungary will head for the next six months, has “no mandate to engage with Russia on behalf of the EU”.

“The European Council is clear: Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is the victim. No discussions about Ukraine can take place without Ukraine”, Michel said.

Earlier in the day, while acknowledging that he had no mandate to negotiate on behalf of the EU, Orbán stressed that it was impossible to “make peace from a comfortable armchair in Brussels” and that “we cannot sit back and wait for the war to miraculously end.”

Orbán’s visit to Moscow follows his surprise visit to Kyiv on Tuesday where he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to consider a ceasefire with Russia to “speed up” potential peace negotiations between the two countries.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty cited an unnamed source who said that Orbán had not informed the EU of his plans to travel to Moscow but that the bloc would have “strongly advised against” such a visit had it been informed ahead of time.

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo echoes Michel’s sentiments, calling reports of Orbán’s plans “disturbing” and saying his planned trip to Moscow would “undermine the interests of the European Union”.

Orbán is the first senior EU official to meet with Vladimir Putin in Moscow since Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer travelled to the Russian capital in April 2022 for “tough” talks on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Orbán drew condemnation from Western officials in October after he reaffirmed Hungary’s “commitment to bilateral ties” with Russia during a meeting with Putin at a summit in Beijing. He last visited Moscow in September 2022 for the funeral of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, though he did not meet with Putin on that occasion.

While Orbán publicly condemned Russia’s invasion of its neighbour in 2022, he has since come to be known as Putin’s closest ally in the EU and has consistently opposed the bloc’s initiatives to send aid to Kyiv.

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