Orban’s surprise visit to Moscow sparks fury in Brussels: Key takeaways from Hungarian PM’s ‘peace mission’

The Hungarian prime minister unexpectedly traveled to Russia, just days after he visited Ukraine in the same unannounced manner

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in Moscow on July 5, 2024 © Sputnik / Valery Sharifulin

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban unexpectedly visited Russia on Friday and met with President Vladimir Putin to discuss ways to resolve the Ukraine conflict. The surprise trip caused major outrage among Orban’s fellow EU leaders, as it came only days after the Hungarian premier made a similar unannounced trip to Ukraine.

Hungary holds the rotating EU presidency for the remainder of this year. Orban, however, has claimed that he doesn’t require any sort of mandate from Brussels in order to promote peace, noting that his discussions cannot be considered official negotiations.

Peace mission

Orban said his trip had been the first step to restoring dialogue. A critic of Western military aid to Ukraine, the Hungarian premier said he recognized he had no EU mandate for the trips but that peace could not be achieved “from a comfortable armchair in Brussels.”

“We cannot sit back and wait for the war to miraculously end,” he wrote on X (formerly Twitter) before meeting Putin.

Orban visited Kiev earlier in the week, where he urged Vladimir Zelensky to seek peace with Russia, arguing that a ceasefire could serve as a first step in the right direction. The Ukrainian leader didn’t take his proposal well, Orban said later. Kiev insists that only a military victory will result in a “just peace.”

“Shortest way out” of Ukraine conflict

The Hungarian premier said he wanted to hear directly from Putin how Russia perceives various peace initiatives, calling it an important step, even though the frank discussion confirmed that there was a major rift between the conflicting sides.

Putin and Orban discussed the “shortest way out” of the conflict, which the latter later revealed to journalists. Moscow’s and Kiev’s positions remain very “far apart,” the Hungarian admitted.

READ MORE: Putin calls for ‘complete end’ to Ukraine conflict

“A lot of steps have to be taken to get closer to a resolution of the war. Still, we’ve already taken the most important step – establishing the contact, and I will continue to work on this in the future,” Orban stated.

Moscow’s vision

Putin has told Orban that he presented his vision of how the conflict can be resolved, in a keynote speech at the Foreign Ministry last month, and said he is prepared to discuss its nuances.

The proposal he was referring to was to suspend hostilities immediately after Kiev renounces its bid to join NATO and orders its troops to pull back from all territories claimed by Moscow. Then a comprehensive discussion of a new security architecture in Europe could be held, Putin suggested. The Ukrainian government has rejected the offer.

The Russian president has reiterated Moscow’s readiness to resolve hostilities through negotiations. The Ukrainian leadership, however, appears to be still incapable of abandoning its idea of waging a war “until the end,” Putin noted.

Moscow is seeking to reach lasting, sustainable peace rather than opting for a temporary ceasefire or a “frozen conflict” of any sort, the Russian president warned.

There should not be a “ceasefire or some kind of pause that the Kiev regime could use to recover losses, regroup, and rearm. Russia is in favor of a complete and final end to the conflict,” Putin stressed.

Fury in Brussels

The trip to Moscow drew strong rebukes from EU leaders and officials, despite Orban insisting earlier in the day that he was not representing the union.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has accused Hungary’s prime minister of “appeasement” with regards to Putin. “Only unity and determination will pave the path to a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in Ukraine,” she claimed.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that Orban’s visit to Russia had nothing to do with the EU, and that the bloc’s position on the conflict remains unchanged.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a vocal supporter of Kiev, lashed out at Orban after rumors of his impending visit started circulating in the media on Thursday. Tusk claimed he could not believe such a visit could take place.

READ MORE: Kiev outraged over Orban’s visit to Moscow

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who is slated to become the EU’s next foreign policy and security chief, has joined the chorus of Western officials reprimanding Orban. The Hungarian prime minister intends to “sow confusion,” she has claimed.

Ukraine conflict’s broader impact

The enduring conflict between Russia and Ukraine is affecting the broader European region, according to the Hungarian PM, who said the continent has enjoyed the most rapid and sustainable development only during peacetime.

In previous public remarks, Orban expressed concern that Western determination to escalate the Ukraine conflict may result in a direct clash with Russia, which could have catastrophic consequences for everyone involved.

Budapest has argued that the economic restrictions spawned by the conflict have hurt EU nations more than Russia and have failed to compel Moscow to capitulate.


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