Hungary’s Orban accuses EU of prolonging war in Ukraine
Published Saturday, February 18, 2023 | 2:57 pm
Updated 2 hours and 15 minutes ago
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Saturday that the European Union is partly to blame for prolonging Russia’s war in Ukraine, doubling down on his government’s insistence that supporting Kiev was the wrong strategy for Europe.
Speaking in an annual state of the nation address in Budapest, Orban said the EU had fanned the flames of war by sanctioning Russia and supplying Ukraine with money and weapons, rather than seeking to negotiate a peace with Moscow.
“When Russia launched its attack, the West did not isolate the conflict, but raised it to a pan-European level,” Orban said. “The war in Ukraine is not a conflict between the armies of good and evil, but between two Slavic countries fighting each other. This is their fight, not ours.”
Under the slogan “Peace and Security”, Orbán’s nearly hour-long speech focused mainly on the conflict in Ukraine, which is approaching its one-year mark on February 24.
The right-wing populist leader has repeatedly called for an immediate ceasefire, saying he and his government are “on the side of peace” and condemning his Western allies for providing aid to Kiev.
Hungary, he said on Saturday, is “part of the Western world, a member of NATO and the European Union where, except for us, everyone supports the war or at least acts like it.”
In recent months, Orban has spoken out strongly against several rounds of EU sanctions against Moscow, arguing that they have done little to stop the war and hurt European economies more than Russia. Ultimately, however, he always voted for them.
Breaking with most of its Western allies, Hungary has refused to provide military aid to Ukraine or allow its transfer across its borders, and has blocked several EU efforts to offer financial aid packages to Kiev.
On Saturday, he said that while Hungary has provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine and accepted refugees fleeing the war, such aid “does not mean removing our relations with Russia, because that would be against our national interests “.
“We are maintaining our economic relations with Russia and in fact recommend that the entire Western world do the same, because without relations there will be no ceasefire and no peace talks,” he said.
Over the past decade, Orbán’s government has pursued increasingly close economic and diplomatic ties with Russia and concluded major deals to purchase Russian gas, oil and nuclear fuel. Hungary has threatened to veto any EU sanctions that would affect its access to Russian energy.
Saturday’s speech came as Orban faces multiple political and economic obstacles just 10 months after he and his party won a fourth consecutive term in office.
Hungary’s economy slowed to a technical recession in the fourth quarter of 2022, while its forint currency has lost 7.5% against the euro and 15% against the dollar in the past year. Inflation in Hungary is among the highest in the EU at over 25%, more than double the bloc’s average of just over 10%.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine