Self-appointed peacemaker Orbán meets Putin for Kremlin talks about ending war — Novaya Gazeta Europe
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Self-appointed peacemaker Orbán meets Putin for Kremlin talks about ending war

Putin and Orbán’s meeting in the Kremlin, 5 July 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE/VALERIY SHARIFULIN/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN / POOL

Putin and Orbán’s meeting in the Kremlin, 5 July 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE/VALERIY SHARIFULIN/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN / POOL

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán met Vladimir Putin in Moscow for talks about ending the war in Ukraine, Russian state media reported on Friday.

A livestreamed segment of the talks broadcast by Russian state news agencies showed Orbán and Putin shaking hands in the Kremlin, after which Putin said he was “very glad” to see Orbán in Moscow and that they “had a lot to talk about”.

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At the press conference following the talks, Putin said the negotiations with Orbán had been “fruitful”, adding that Russia and Hungary would continue to cooperate with one another “based on the principles of healthy pragmatism and mutual benefit”.

Putin said he and Orbán discussed ways to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, including Orbán’s visit to Kyiv earlier this week where he proposed a ceasefire.

Putin stressed that Russia remained “open” to discussing a settlement, but described Kyiv as “unwilling”, and accused its “Western sponsors” of using Ukraine as a “battering ram” against Russia. He also reaffirmed his preconditions for ending the war in Ukraine, once again urging Ukraine to withdraw its troops from Russian-occupied territories.

“Kyiv will not countenance the thought of a ceasefire, as they would then lose an excuse for extending martial law, would have to hold presidential elections,” Putin said, adding that the current Ukrainian administration had “close to zero” chance of winning an election.

In turn, Orbán said that Europe needed peace, and that Hungary saw “fighting for peace” as the main objective of its six-month EU presidency. Orbán added that by talking to Putin, he had wanted to find out the “shortest path” to ending the war in Ukraine, noting however that Moscow and Kyiv’s positions remained “very far apart”.

“There are practically no countries left that can engage with both sides. We have made the most important step: we have established contact,” Orbán said, vowing to continue his attempts at dialogue.

Orbán and Putin during the press conference in the Kremlin. Photo: EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV

Orbán and Putin during the press conference in the Kremlin. Photo: EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV

“I expect you will familiarise me with your position and the position of our European partners,” Putin said, reminding Orbán of his preconditions for entering into negotiations with Kyiv that he announced on the eve of last month’s Summit on Peace in Ukraine, to which Russia was not invited.

In turn, Orbán thanked Putin for meeting him “even in such difficult conditions” and noted that Hungary would soon “become the only country in Europe to negotiate both with Russia and Ukraine”.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told state news agency TASS on Friday that Putin and Orbán had a “working lunch” planned with their respective delegations, though he stressed the pair would be able to speak tête-à-tête should they wish to.

Putin’s prerequisites for a peace plan, dismissed by Kyiv as a “complete sham” and “offensive to common sense”, include the withdrawal of all Ukrainian troops from the entirety of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions, which are only partially under Russian control at present, the lifting of all Western sanctions on Russia, and the full “demilitarisation and denazification” of Ukraine.

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.

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