Putin tells Hungary’s Orbán he is ready to discuss ‘nuances’ of Ukraine conflict

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Orbán’s Moscow visit comes only days after he made a similar unannounced trip to Kyiv for a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán traveled to Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin on Friday, in rare visit by a European leader since Russian forces invaded Ukraine more than two years ago.

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

The Hungarian leader, widely considered Putin’s closest partner in the European Union, has routinely blocked, delayed or watered down E.U. efforts to assist Ukraine and impose sanctions on Moscow for its war.

He has long argued for a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine but without outlining what that might mean for the country’s territorial integrity or future security.

Orbán’s trip to Russia on Friday was a “peace mission”, Bertalan Havasi, his press chief, told Hungarian news agency MTI ahead.

Putin, who received Orbán in the Kremlin, told the Hungarian leader that he was ready to discuss the “nuances” of peace proposals to end the conflict in Ukraine.

He said he was ready to hear the Orbán’s position on Ukraine and to get a readout from him on the views of other European partners.

“I hope we will have an opportunity to exchange views 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 in the Ukrainian direction,” Putin told the Hungarian prime minister.

At the beginning of the month, Hungary took over the six-month rotating presidency of the E.U. Council, a largely formal role that can be used to shape the bloc’s policy agenda.

Orbán has said he wants to use the presidency to advocate for an end to the fighting in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed to a Russian state TV reporter on Friday that Ukraine will be among the topics on the agenda when the two leaders meet.

E.U. officials have come down hard on Orbán for his visit — something only one other European leader has done since the start of the invasion.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer visited Moscow in April 2022, weeks after the invasion, and said he raised the issue of war crimes allegedly committed in Ukraine by Russian forces.

The E.U.’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said Orbán’s visit to Moscow “takes place, exclusively, in the framework of the bilateral relations between Hungary and Russia”.

He added: “Prime Minister Orbán’s  has not received any mandate from the E.U. Council to visit Moscow. The E.U. position on Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is reflected in many European Council conclusions.

“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.”

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