Hungary’s Orban Meets Putin in Push for Peace Talks on Russia-Ukraine War

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited Moscow on Friday, saying that peace between Russia and Ukraine requires a more proactive effort.

Mr. Orban met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 5, following up his visit earlier this week with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Hungarian leader wanted to meet with the opposing leaders even as his Western allies cast doubts on the effort.

“The number of countries that can talk to both warring sides is diminishing,” Mr. Orban said as he met with his Russian counterpart.

“Hungary is slowly becoming the only country in Europe that can speak to everyone.”

The Hungarian prime minister said he wanted to better understand Mr. Putin’s perspective on the war and open new diplomatic channels to end the conflict.

Mr. Orban is the first European leader to visit Russia and sit down for talks with Mr. Putin since Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer visited Moscow in April 2022, just weeks after Russian troops entered Ukraine in force.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin meets with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban (L) at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 5, 2024. (Valery Sharifulin/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Western Allies Denounce Efforts

The Kremlin said the two leaders discussed possible resolutions to the ongoing war and saw Mr. Orban’s visit as an effort to boost peace talks. But Mr. Orban’s European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) colleagues said his efforts risked emboldening Russia.

“Appeasement will not stop Putin. Only unity and determination will pave the path to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said as Mr. Orban arrived in Moscow on Friday.

The White House also cast doubts about Mr. Orban’s Moscow visit.

“We are concerned that Prime Minister Orban would choose to make this trip to Moscow, which will not advance the cause of peace and is counterproductive to promoting Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press gaggle on board Air Force One on Friday afternoon.

Ms. Jean-Pierre offered a simple solution to the conflict.

“Russia could end this war today by ceasing their aggression against Ukraine, against their sovereignty, against their democracy,” she said. “They can withdraw, they can withdraw right now.”

Ms. Jean-Pierre’s comments are not the first time Mr. Putin has heard calls to simply leave Ukraine. The Russian leader has been ignoring such demands from Ukraine and its Western backers since he first ordered troops into the country in February 2022.

Mr. Zelenskyy expressed openness to negotiations early on in the war but has since rejected any talks until Russia withdraws from the territories it has taken so far in the conflict and Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Two Russian soldiers patrol
Two Russian soldiers patrol in the Mariupol drama theatre, which was bombed on March 16, in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 12, 2022. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)

‘We Cannot Sit Back and Wait’ Orban Says

Even as his allies rejected his efforts, Mr. Orban said the conflict will not simply end without an intermediary stepping up and beginning a dialogue.

“You cannot make peace from a comfortable armchair in Brussels,” the Hungarian prime minister said in an X post on Friday afternoon following his meeting with Mr. Putin.

Mr. Orban began his term this week as the rotating president of the EU, and has pledged to use his position to advance a dialogue between Russia and Ukraine.

“Even if the rotating EU Presidency has no mandate to negotiate on behalf of the EU, we cannot sit back and wait for the war to miraculously end,” he said.

While admitting he lacks authority to speak for the EU, Mr. Orban said his visits with Mr. Zelenskyy and Mr. Putin could open the way for more productive talks within the 27 EU member states.

Mr. Orban’s Moscow visit came just three days after he asked if Mr. Zelenskyy would accept a ceasefire now as a preamble to a more long-term peace settlement. The Hungarian leader’s office has suggested he was merely trying to gauge Mr. Zelenskyy’s views on the issue rather than push him into such a proposal. Mr. Orban’s office indicated the Ukrainian president wasn’t extremely receptive to the ceasefire idea, but indicated he’d take time to consider the idea.

Mr. Putin said in a Friday press statement that Ukraine’s backers are the ones who are prolonging the conflict.

“I have repeatedly said that we remain open for a discussion on a political and diplomatic settlement. However, the opposite side only makes clear its reluctance to resolve this issue in this manner,” the Russian leader said. a”Ukraine’s sponsors continue using this country and its people as a ram, making it a victim in the confrontation with Russia.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

From The Epoch Times