Putin meets EU-defying Orban in China
China has hosted a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during which the Brussels-defying leader said he has sought to keep relations with Moscow afloat even as the West tries to isolate Moscow diplomatically.
The meeting took place on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. Senior Russian officials participated in the talks, according to the Kremlin.
Putin said that opportunities for such contacts were “quite limited” under the current “geopolitical circumstances” and noted that Hungary and Russia maintained good bilateral relations despite the crisis.
“A chance to exchange opinions with Hungary, an EU member, not only on bilateral issues but also on the situation in the world and in Europe is important,” he added.
Putin noted that the two nations’ positions differed on some things, which made keeping the dialogue open more valuable.
Orban admitted that Western sanctions imposed on Russia have had a detrimental impact on Hungary's relationship with the country. He further stated that Budapest is actively working to salvage whatever aspects of the cooperation can be preserved.
“Hungary never sought confrontation with Russia; on the contrary, Hungary’s goal was to establish and improve the relations,” the prime minister added.
He specifically noted Russian energy supplies and work on a nuclear plant in Hungary as examples of beneficial ties, which have continued despite the Russian-Western rift.
Orban has been highly critical of the EU’s approach to the Ukraine conflict, which the bloc has blamed on “unprovoked Russian aggression.” He has urged de-escalation rather than military support for Kiev, arguing that Western assistance has resulted only in mounting costs from the conflict. For instance, the Hungarian leader stated that sanctions have done more harm to the EU than to Russia and have failed to change the Kremlin’s policies.
Moscow has said that NATO’s expansion in Europe and militarization of Ukraine since the 2014 armed coup in Kiev, as well as Ukraine’s refusal to stop attacks on rebels in Donbass, were the key causes of the crisis. It perceives the conflict as part of a wider US proxy war against Russia.