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Putin tells Hungary's Orban he is ready to discuss 'nuances' of Ukraine conflict



Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrived in Moscow on Friday for talks with President Vladimir Putin, a rare visit by a European leader since Russian forces invaded Ukraine more than two years ago.

Orban's visit comes just days after his similarly unannounced trip to Kyiv, where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and proposed that his country should consider agreeing an immediate ceasefire with Russia.

Hungary’s leader, considered Putin’s closest ally in the EU, has regularly blocked, delayed or undermined EU efforts to aid Ukraine and impose sanctions on Moscow for its war.

He has long advocated for an end to hostilities in Ukraine, but has not explained what impact that would have on the country's territorial integrity or future security.

Orban's press chief Bertalan Havasi told Hungarian news agency MTI that Orban's visit to Russia on Friday was a “peace mission.”

Putin, who welcomed Orban to the Kremlin, told the Hungarian leader he was ready to discuss the “specifics” of peace proposals to end the conflict in Ukraine.

He said he was ready to listen to Orban's position on Ukraine and receive input from him about the views of other European partners.

“I hope that we will have an opportunity to exchange views on building bilateral relations in this difficult situation and, of course, to talk about the prospects for the development of the biggest European crisis, I mean in the Ukrainian direction,” Putin told the Hungarian prime minister.

Earlier this month, Hungary took over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU Council, a largely ceremonial role that can be used to shape the EU's policy agenda.

Orban has said he wants to use the presidency to end the fighting in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed to a Russian state TV reporter on Friday that Ukraine would be among the topics on the agenda when the two leaders meet.

EU officials have heavily criticised Orban for making the trip – the only time any other European leader has done so since the invasion began.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer visited Moscow in April 2022, a few weeks after the invasion, and said he raised the issue of war crimes allegedly committed in Ukraine by Russian forces.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Orban’s visit to Moscow was “taking place exclusively within the framework of bilateral relations between Hungary and Russia”.

He added: “Prime Minister Orban has not received any order from the EU Council to go to Moscow. The EU’s position on Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine is reflected in a number of conclusions of the European Council.

“This status excludes official contacts between the EU and President Putin. Thus the Hungarian Prime Minister is not representing the EU in any form.”

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