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Inside Orban's Ceasefire Proposal and Controversial Moscow Trip

  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow days after visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv.
  • Orban's trip has drawn strong condemnation from EU leaders, who emphasize that the EU presidency holds no mandate to engage with Russia on behalf of the EU.
  • Orban presented Zelenskiy with a ceasefire proposal during his Kyiv visit, but Ukraine maintains that its territorial integrity must be the foundation of any peace agreement.
Moscow

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will travel to Moscow on July 5 to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, days after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv, a Hungarian government source told RFE/RL.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto will also accompany Orban to the Kremlin, the government source said on July 4. Szijjarto has visited Russia more than five times since Moscow invaded Ukraine more than two years ago.

News of the Moscow visit comes days after Hungary took over the rotating presidency of the European Union -- an action that raised concerns among many in the EU because of Orban’s regular pro-Russia statements – and elicited quick condemnation from leaders of the bloc.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, posted on X that “the EU rotating presidency has no mandate to engage with Russia on behalf of the EU.”

“The European Council is clear: Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is the victim. No discussions about Ukraine can take place without Ukraine,” Michel added.

An EU official who asked not to be identified told RFE/RL that Orban has not informed the bloc of any planned trip to Moscow.

If Orban would have asked, Michel would have strongly advised against such a visit, the official said.

Since Russia launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Orban has stood out among leaders from the European Union and NATO for his reluctance to sign onto massive Western weapons and aid packages for Ukraine.

Central European investigative editor Szabolcs Panyi first reported on the trip in a post on X. RFE/RL later received confirmation of the visit via a Hungarian government source.

The Hungarian prime minister's press office has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Last month, Putin said Russia would end its war -- which is believed to have killed and wounded at least 500,000 soldiers on both sides -- only if Kyiv met certain conditions.

Those included renouncing its NATO ambitions and ceding four partially occupied regions that Russia claims in their entirety, in addition to Crimea.

Related: Liberty Ostrava's Insolvency Raises Concerns for European Steel Industry

Ukraine dismissed the conditions as absurd and said they amounted to capitulation.

While in Kyiv, Orban -- who maintains close relations with Putin -- said he presented Zelenskiy with a cease-fire proposal aimed at pausing fighting with Russia more than two years into Moscow’s full-scale invasion.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Zelenskiy, Orban gave no details about the contents of the proposal but said he asked the Ukrainian president "whether it was possible to take a break, to stop the firing, and then continue the negotiations,” adding that a cease-fire "could ensure speeding up the pace of these negotiations."

The talks were notable because of Orban’s vocal, persistent criticism of Western military aid for Kyiv.

Zelenskiy did not express his opinion on the proposal during the briefing with reporters, but a spokesman for the president said later on July 2 that Zelenskiy gave Orban an opportunity to air his thoughts.

Ihor Zhovkva, Zelenskiy's deputy chief of staff, also said Hungary was not the first country to come forward with a potential peace plan.

Zhovkva said Zelenskiy listened to Orban's proposal but stated Ukraine's "quite clear, understandable, and known" position in response.

Ukraine says its "territorial integrity" must be the foundation of any peace agreement -- a notion underscored by 80 countries that participated in the Ukrainian-initiated Global Peace Summit in Switzerland last month.

Orban last visited Moscow in September 2022, when he paid his respects at the funeral of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

By RFE/RL

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on July 06 2024 said:
    Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban is one of the most astute politicians in Europe. He is one of very few politicians that realize that there is no alternative for the United States and NATO but to negotiate with President Putin to resolve the Ukraine conflict if they want to save the world from WW3.

    In visiting Moscow, Prime Minister Orban was fully aware that his initiative may not succeed but at least it focuses Western minds on peace rather than war.

    His advice to his colleagues in the EU is to negotiate an end to the conflict and stop claiming that Putin is bluffing when he threatens US-led NATO with destruction if it attempts to threaten Russia. The United States and NATO should heed Putin's words.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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