Hungarian chief Viktor Orban visits Moscow, defying E.U. coverage | EUROtoday

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BRUSSELS — Fresh off his first go to to Ukraine since Russia invaded, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrived in Moscow on Friday to satisfy Russian President Vladimir Putin — a putting break with the European Union’s collective international coverage simply days after Hungary took over the bloc’s rotating presidency.

Even earlier than Orban’s airplane touched down Friday, the journey drew sharp disavowals from Brussels.

Josep Borrell, the E.U.’s high diplomat, preemptively famous that the Hungarian chief’s journey just isn’t official E.U. enterprise and “takes place exclusively in the framework of bilateral relations between Hungary and Russia.”

But with Hungary now holding the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, the journey represented a diplomatic triumph for Putin, who has repeatedly accused NATO nations, significantly the United States, of prolonging the conflict he began. Putin has additionally blamed them for not forcing Ukraine to barter a give up of territory that Russia has seized by pressure.

Greeting Orban on the Kremlin, Putin instantly harassed his visitor’s management function within the E.U.

“‘Welcome to Moscow, to Russia,” Putin said. “I understand that you have come this time not only as our long-standing partner, but also as the president of the European Council. I hope we will have the opportunity to exchange ideas on building bilateral relations in this difficult situation and, of course, to talk about the prospects for the development of the biggest European crisis, I mean, on the Ukrainian track.”


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In a three-hour-long meeting behind closed doors, the two leaders discussed “the shortest path to peace,” Orban said after the talks, according to Russian state media. From Moscow’s perspective, that path sometimes means Ukraine ought to capitulate to Russia’s calls for to annex about one-fifth of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.

Putin on Friday rehashed his calls for for ceasing hostilities, together with Ukraine’s give up of that territory, one thing that Ukrainian officers repeatedly deemed a non-starter. The Russian chief additionally took up a brand new line of assault, claiming that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is “reluctant” to cease preventing as a result of it might pressure the nation to finish martial regulation and maintain presidential elections.

“For the authorities who have lost their ratings and legitimacy, the chances of winning them are close to zero,” Putin stated. He provided no proof to assist his evaluation of Ukrainian home politics. Recent polling has instructed that Ukrainians broadly assist the conflict effort and oppose giving in to Russia’s calls for — with almost 75 % believing that Ukraine will finally achieve liberating its territories.

Orban stated his assembly with Putin passed off “at a time when Europe really needs peace,” which “will not come by itself.”

Speaking Thursday at a gathering of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, Putin instructed resuming negotiations that passed off in Istanbul in 2022 shortly after Russia’s invasion when Ukraine was in a perilously weak place.

Those talks broke down after Russian forces retreated from their try to seize Kyiv, forsaking proof of atrocities in opposition to Ukrainian troopers and civilians in Bucha, Irpin and different suburbs of the Ukrainian capital. Putin on Thursday accused Britain and the United States of directing Ukraine to finish the negotiations — a cost that U.S. and British officers deny.

The six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the E.U. sometimes includes convening conferences and overseeing legislative trivia in Brussels, not shuttling between international capitals at conflict. But Orban, a right-wing chief who prides himself as a proponent of “illiberal democracy” and has lengthy clashed with different European leaders, is clearly intent on utilizing the function as a platform.

Orban has repeatedly damaged with different E.U. and NATO leaders by calling on Ukraine to think about making concessions to Russia, and he has refused to permit donated weapons to be transferred to Ukraine via Hungary, which shares an extended border with Ukraine. Orban additionally has repeatedly slow-rolled the E.U.’s efforts to help Kyiv and advance Ukraine’s software to hitch the bloc.

A spokesperson for Orban described Friday’s journey as a “peace mission” however didn’t supply different particulars on his objective or plans.

Earlier Friday, Orban sought to justify his journey, writing on X that you simply “cannot make peace from a comfortable armchair in Brussels.”

“Even if the rotating EU-Presidency has no mandate to negotiate on behalf of the E.U., we cannot sit back and wait for the war to miraculously end,” he wrote. “We will serve as an important tool in making the first steps toward peace.”

Borrell, in his assertion, harassed that Orban couldn’t converse for the E.U.’s 26 different member international locations. “The E.U. position on Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is reflected in many European Council conclusions,” he stated. “That position excludes official contacts between the E.U. and President Putin. The Hungarian Prime Minister is thus not representing the E.U. in any form.”

When Orban visited Zelensky in Kyiv on Tuesday, there have been no such clarifications. Instead, the E.U. flag was positioned prominently behind him together with the Hungarian and Ukrainian flags.

During the go to in Kyiv, Orban instructed that Ukraine ought to conform to a cease-fire with Russia as a part of an effort to start negotiations to finish the preventing.

Zelensky has put ahead a 10-point peace plan that doesn’t embody agreeing to a cessation of hostilities whereas Russian troops are nonetheless occupying Ukraine.

The cease-fire proposal that Orban pitched would depart Moscow answerable for roughly one-fifth of Ukraine, probably giving Moscow an opportunity to rearm and renew its efforts to grab extra territory. Russia first invaded and illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Eight years later, in February 2022, Putin launched a full-scale invasion in search of to seize Kyiv.

A variety of European officers and leaders have dismissed the notion that Orban can play peacemaker, significantly on behalf of the E.U.

“The European Council is clear,” Charles Michel, president of the European Council, posted Thursday. “Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is the victim. No discussions about Ukraine can take place without Ukraine.”

Orban, after assembly with Putin, acknowledged the troublesome of reaching a peace deal “We need to work for it,” he stated. “The positions are far apart.”

Ilyushina reported from Berlin. Serhii Korolchuk in Kyiv and Kate Brady in Berlin contributed to this report.