Putin stresses peace only after Ukraine’s surrender as Hungary’s Orban makes surprise visit to Moscow

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is advocating a peace deal to end the war in Ukraine, revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin has made clear that peace talks can only happen after Ukraine essentially surrenders. 

“If we sit in Brussels, we won’t be able to get any closer to peace. Action must be taken,” Orban said during a regular interview on Hungarian state radio following his visit. 

Orban turned heads this week when he made back-to-back trips to Kyiv and Moscow just days before a major NATO summit in Washington, D.C., next week. Hungary on Monday started its six-month tenure as the president of the EU, which is a rotating role among all members, and this is Orban’s first visit to Ukraine since the invasion started in Feb. 2022. 

European Union Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell rushed out a statement stressing that Orban had no mandate from the union and that he was “not representing the EU in any form.” 

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Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo described the visit as “disturbing” news, writing on social media platform X that the visit shows “disregard for the duties of the EU presidency and undermines interests of the European Union.”

Orban insisted that he had had a “really useful, frank conversation” with Putin about Ukraine, and Putin said that the pair had discussed “possible ways of resolving” the conflict, repeating his demands that Ukraine withdraw all troops from annexed regions. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed that Russia had had no idea about the visit until Orban’s camp established contact one day before his arrival. 

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However, Orban admitted that after his two visits, he realized that the “positions are far apart” between Kyiv and Moscow, adding that “the number of steps needed to end the war and bring about peace is many,” Euractiv reported.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry stressed that Orban had made the trip “without any agreement or coordination with Ukraine.”

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Leaders of NATO member states will meet in Washington, D.C., next week to mark the alliance’s 75th anniversary and tackle the issue of how to resolve the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, now well into its third year. 

In a pre-summit background call, the White House laid out its goals for the week, including the announcement of new steps to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses and military capabilities, all with the intent of ultimately sending a “strong signal” to Putin that NATO will outlast him if needed. 

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“We’re also going to send an important message to the rest of the world, including through our partnerships in the Indo-Pacific, as we stand together united and in support of democratic values,” a White House spokesperson told reporters. 

But Orban’s trip has angered his allies, drawing backlash from various leaders across the bloc who deemed his visit to Moscow in particular a danger to their position in negotiations with Putin. 

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“With such a meeting the Hungarian presidency ends before it has really begun,” one EU diplomat told Reuters. “Hungary does not seem to have understood its role. . . . The skepticism of EU member states was unfortunately justified – it’s all about promoting Budapest’s interests.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on X, “Appeasement will not stop Putin,” and “only unity and determination will pave the path to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.” 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre labeled the visit as “counterproductive” for NATO and argued that the visit “will not advance the cause of peace.” 

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