Hungarian PM’s Surprise Meeting with Putin Sparks EU Outrage

Written by Camilla Jessen

Jul.05 - 2024 1:04 PM CET

Photo: Viktor Orbán on X
Photo: Viktor Orbán on X
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's unexpected trip to Moscow to meet with Vladimir Putin has stirred anger among European Union officials.

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán arrived in Moscow on Friday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Russian state-owned news agency TASS.

The surprise visit has raised concerns in Brussels.

Unexpected Visit

The news of Orbán’s visit was first reported on Thursday afternoon by Hungarian investigative journalist Szabolcs Panyi.

He noted that a Hungarian government plane, likely carrying part of Orbán’s delegation, had made a return trip from Budapest to Moscow.

Later, The Guardian cited an unnamed Hungarian government source who said Orbán’s visit was part of his efforts to “mediate between Russia and Ukraine” after Hungary took over the EU’s rotating presidency last week.

Orbán was accompanied by Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, who has visited Russia multiple times since the start of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

EU's Reaction

Orbán’s visit to Moscow follows his unexpected trip to Kyiv on Tuesday, where he urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to consider a ceasefire with Russia to facilitate peace talks.

But Orbán did not inform the EU of his plans to travel to Moscow, and sources indicate the EU would have “strongly advised against” such a visit had they been informed in advance.

European Council President Charles Michel criticized Orbán’s visit, stating on X that Hungary’s rotating EU presidency has “no mandate to engage with Russia on behalf of the EU.”

He added, “Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is the victim. No discussions about Ukraine can take place without Ukraine.”

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo echoed Michel’s sentiments, calling the reports of Orbán’s visit “disturbing” and saying it would “undermine the interests of the European Union.”

Orbán's Controversial Stance

Orbán is the first senior EU official to meet with Putin in Moscow since Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s visit in April 2022 for talks on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Orbán previously drew criticism in October for reaffirming Hungary’s “commitment to bilateral ties” with Russia during a meeting with Putin at a summit in Beijing.

Although Orbán publicly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, he has since become known as Putin’s closest ally in the EU and has consistently opposed the bloc’s initiatives to send aid to Kyiv.