The Hungarian leader, when visiting Moscow, called Russia’s demands reasonable and said sanctions were meaningless.

MOSCOW – Clearly divided with its NATO allies, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary on Tuesday said proposed sanctions against Russia if it took military action against Ukraine would “fail”. ” and that Russia’s security requirements are reasonable.

Visiting Moscow, Orban met privately for five hours with Russian President Vladimir Putin and later said in a cordial press conference with Putin that he had “no intention” for Russia to escalate the conflict with Ukraine. .

Most Western leaders condemn Putin for deploying more than 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, and US and NATO officials warn that Russia appears to be preparing for an invasion. Hungary is a member of the European Union and NATO, both of which have pledged to respond strongly to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The president was very calm and said that Russia’s request for security guarantees is normal and should form the basis of negotiations,” Orban said. “And I agree with that. We have to negotiate.”

When Washington issued a strict sanctions regime in the event of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, Orban said previous sanctions “did not have the desired effect in the case of Russia”.

He said sanctions imposed by the European Union after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 harm Hungary more than their intended target.

Orban, perhaps Putin’s closest ally inside the European Union, has long been accused of undermining the 27-member bloc’s common foreign policy and democratic standards. This is the 12th meeting between the two leaders since 2013.

“Mr. In fact, Orban is acting as a tool in Russian foreign policy,” said Peter Kreko, a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis and director of Political Capital, a research group in Budapest, said.

Relations between Kyiv and Budapest soured in 2017 due to a law passed by Ukraine making Ukrainian the official language of education, which Hungary says discriminates against ethnic minorities. Hungary is in the west of the country. Since then, Budapest has blocked the activities of the NATO-Ukraine Council, the main forum for the military alliance to engage with Kyiv.

In 2019 Mr. Orban welcome for Budapest, a little-known Russian development bank whose chairman has long ties to Russian intelligence agencies, granting its leadership diplomatic immunity. Hungary has become the first EU country to use Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, against the advice of the EU’s drug regulator.

The Ukraine crisis has intensified calls for Europe to become less dependent on Russian natural gas, but Orban has done the opposite: He signed a 15-year contract with Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy company, in September and he is looking to buy. than.

Unlike most of its neighbours, Hungary has also signaled that it will not allow NATO to increase its military presence on its territory, nor send more aid to Ukraine.

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