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First visit during war: Key takeaways from Orbán's trip to Ukraine

First visit during war: Key takeaways from Orbán's trip to Ukraine Photo: Viktor Orbán and Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv (Vitalii Nosach/RBC-Ukraine)

The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán visited Ukraine for the first time in many years and made a series of statements, particularly regarding the Russian-Ukrainian war.

RBC-Ukraine summarizes the visit.


Preconditions and details of Orbán's visit

This visit marked Orbán's first trip to Ukraine in 12 years. His previous visit was in 2012, during Viktor Yanukovych's presidency. Today, Orbán arrived in Kyiv as the country leader who currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union for six months.

According to Western media, Orbán decided on this trip partly after Ukraine made concessions regarding the rights of the Hungarian minority, which led to Budapest lifting its veto on the start of negotiations for Ukraine's EU membership.

Orbán's press secretary, Bertalan Havasi, emphasized that among other topics, Orbán and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would discuss the prospects of ending the Russian-Ukrainian war.

The issue lies in the fact that the Hungarian Prime Minister remains the only European leader who maintains relations with Vladimir Putin. Previously, he opposed military aid and blocked the European Union's decision to allocate a financial package of 50 billion euros for Ukraine.

Additionally, Orbán opposed NATO's initiative to take a more active role in providing military assistance to Ukraine. As a result, NATO approved the program only after assurances from Budapest that its representatives would not participate in it.

In May, Zelenskyy and Orbán had a "lengthy and focused" phone conversation. Then on Thursday, at the EU summit, they agreed on today's visit. Notably, it took place the day after Hungary assumed the presidency of the EU Council.

"The purpose of the Hungarian presidency is to contribute to solving the problems the European Union faces. That is why my first trip was to Kyiv," he wrote on his Facebook, accompanying a photo of him shaking hands with Zelenskyy.

In the morning, the motorcade arrived at the building of the Hungarian embassy in Kyiv. Then, there was a meeting with Zelenskyy, first in a one-on-one format, and then in an expanded format.

In the concluding statement for the press, Orbán spoke about the desire to establish bilateral relations, and the Russia-Ukraine war, and even cautiously suggested that Ukraine consider the possibility of a ceasefire for future peace negotiations.

The Kremlin has already responded to this. His press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, stated that Budapest had not contacted Moscow, so the Kremlin "does not expect anything from this visit."

Summary of the meeting: Key statements by Zelenskyy and Orbán

In a press statement, Zelenskyy highlighted that Orbán's visit the day after Hungary assumed the presidency of the EU Council sent a clear signal about their shared priorities. He emphasized the importance of restoring a just peace in Ukraine and ensuring the well-being of Europe.

On Hungary's сontribution to finding a peaceful solution

Zelenskyy thanked Orbán for his support of Ukrainians, humanitarian aid, and participation in the first Global Peace Summit.

"This speaks to Hungary's readiness to be effective in returning real long-term security both to our country and to our entire region," he noted.

According to him, during the meeting, they specifically discussed how Budapest can continue to demonstrate its leadership, particularly in preparing for the next Summit. The President emphasized that the second Peace Summit could take place as early as 2024, so preparations must be completed in the coming months.

On expectations from Hungary's EU presidency

In Zelenskyy's opinion, Hungary's presidency needs to be effective. Despite differences in political views, everyone wants to see European policy be equally effective.

"We talked about cooperation at the EU level, about what we expect during Hungary's presidency. We have already started negotiations on Ukraine's accession. We are preparing the conditions for a membership treaty. This is a long, very laborious process, but it constantly requires progress and dynamism," the President added.

On bilateral cooperation and future agreement

The leaders discussed important topics of neighborly relations: trade, cross-border cooperation, infrastructure, energy issues, humanitarian spheres, and everything related to the lives of people in Ukraine and Hungary.

Zelenskyy hopes that today's dialogue can form the basis of a future bilateral document.

"The document will regulate all our relations, which can be based on a mirrored approach to bilateral relations between Ukraine and Hungary, allowing our peoples to enjoy all the benefits of European unity. We agreed that our teams will continue working on the details of joint decisions," he noted.

Orbán, in turn, described the future cooperation agreement as global and stressed that Hungary has similar agreements with other neighboring countries. He also said that Budapest intends to participate in the modernization of the Ukrainian economy within its capabilities.

"We are trying to close all past disputes and focus on the future. We want to improve relations between our countries," he added.

On the first Ukrainian school in Hungary

Additionally, Zelenskyy discussed with Orbán the opening of the first Ukrainian school. According to him, the Hungarian Prime Minister promised to support the project.

Orbán noted that many Ukrainians have been living in Hungary, but due to the influx of Ukrainian refugees, several issues have arisen. Therefore, it is important to take care of them so they can work, live safely, and ensure their children receive education in Ukrainian.

He expressed his pleasure at hearing about the initiative to open the first Ukrainian school. Currently, children of temporarily displaced persons from Ukraine are studying in Hungarian schools, but the government understands their desire to study in schools with Ukrainian-language education.

"The Hungarian state will finance this school. It will work and there will be as many schools as needed. It is very important for us that Ukrainians living in Hungary feel at home in Hungary," added Orbán.

On the rights of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine

Both leaders did not delve deeply into this issue. Orbán simply noted that historically, there is a Hungarian national minority living in the Transcarpathian region. He did not mention specific demands previously put forward by Budapest.

"We hope that this issue will also be resolved. I see good chances for this," he concluded.

It's worth noting that RBC-Ukraine extensively covered this issue in the material Hungary-Ukraine dispute: Budapest's claims and Orbán's ultimatum.

On the proposal to cease fire to expedite negotiations with Russia

Separately, the Hungarian Prime Minister noted that he made his first visit to Ukraine as the leader of a country that will preside over the EU for six months, emphasizing the importance of achieving peace.

"The war you are currently living in has a very intense impact on the security of Europe. We highly value all President Zelenskyy's initiatives towards achieving peace," he emphasized.

According to him, these initiatives require a lot of time due to the complex rules of international diplomacy. Therefore, he proposed to allegedly "accelerate the process."

"And I have asked Mr. President to think about whether we can take a slightly different approach. To take a break. To ceasefire and then continue, to start negotiations. Ceasing fire could accelerate the negotiations. I told the president this, and I am grateful to the president for his frank opinion on this," Orbán stated.

He also added that Ukraine can count on Hungary.

"I wish Ukraine all the best. During our EU presidency, we are at your disposal. We will assist in everything we can," concluded the Hungarian Prime Minister.