After Kiev, Orban visited Moscow on a “peace mission,” against the wishes of EU leaders.

After Kiev, Orban visited Moscow on a “peace mission,” against the wishes of EU leaders.

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Russian President Putin received Hungarian Prime Minister Orban in Moscow today. The two men are said to have discussed, among other things, the war in Ukraine. EU leaders have unequivocally condemned Orban’s visit.

Putin, who received Orban in the Kremlin, said he was “ready to hear Orban’s position on Ukraine and to hear from the Hungarian prime minister the positions of other European partners.”

At a press conference following their meeting, Orban said, “Many steps are needed to end the war, but first we must resume dialogue. There are still many differences between Kiev and Moscow.”

Also on behalf of the European Union?

He stressed that he sees the next six months as a “peace mission” as long as Hungary holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. “Hungary is the only European country that can talk to everyone.”

Putin said nothing during the press conference that he had not said before: he stressed that he was ready for new peace talks, on condition that Ukraine leave the four Ukrainian provinces that Russia partially occupied in 2022: Zaporizhia, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Kherson. This was not considered realistic by Ukraine and its Western partners at all.

Putin noted at the press conference that Orban is also visiting the country as a representative of the European Union. It has been emphasized several times today in Brussels that this is definitely not the case and that Orban speaks only on behalf of his country.

Orban shakes hands with Putin in Moscow

Yesterday, rumors emerged that Orban would travel to Russia. Former EU chief and current Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk expressed his disbelief at the time: “The rumors about your visit to Moscow can’t be true, can they?” Tusk wrote. On X.

European Council President Michel said that Orban, as EU president, does not have a mandate to deal with Russia on behalf of the EU. “The European Council is clear: Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is the victim. Without Ukraine, there can be no discussions on Ukraine.” He said certainly.

Russia the aggressor

Prime Minister Schöff said on X that the Netherlands supports Michel’s message. Foreign Minister Veldkamp stressed this afternoon that Orbán does not represent the entire EU. “As EU countries, we have recently said that Russia is the aggressor here and that Ukraine deserves all our support. I think it is very clear that Orbán is there on his own behalf. Hungary is the EU president, but that does not mean that the country and the EU countries should make that clear to Orbán himself.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said similar words. “Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s visit to Moscow is taking place exclusively within the framework of bilateral relations between Hungary and Russia.” He also noted that the International Criminal Court has indicted Putin and issued an arrest warrant for his role in the forced deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.

Unity and determination

Orban visited Kyiv on Tuesday for the first time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. There, he discussed a possible ceasefire. In a post on Channel X this morning, Orban fueled speculation that he would also travel to Moscow. “You can’t create peace from a comfortable chair in Brussels,” he wrote, without confirming his visit to Russia.

The Hungarian Prime Minister also admitted that he has no mandate to negotiate on behalf of the EU. “We will be an important instrument in taking the first steps towards peace.”

Orban’s peacemaker role was met with some skepticism by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “Reconciliation will not stop Putin. Only unity and determination will pave the way for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine,” she added. On X.

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