Orbán Offers President Putin Peace Plan in Moscow

Vladimir Putin: “Russia never refused and is now ready to continue peace talks”

Viktor Orban e Vladimir Putin

After meeting with Ukrainian President Zelensky in Kiev on Tuesday, July 2, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán traveled to Moscow on Friday afternoon (July 5) for a summit meeting with President Vladimir Putin. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó also arrived in the Russian capital together with Orbán.

At the center of the talks between Orbán and Putin was the Hungarian peace plan, which calls for a ceasefire even before Moscow and Kiev begin negotiations. However, at the start of talks with Putin in the Kremlin, Orbán emphasized that “Hungary, which holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, does not have a mandate to start negotiations on Ukraine” but could encourage the sides to start talks. “I would like to clarify once again,” Orban said, “that the Hungarian EU presidency does not give a mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Union, but we can find out which side is ready to go where, and having found out, the EU leaders could already make some decisions together, and after these decisions we can negotiate. Unfortunately, we’re still a long way from that point.”

For his part, Putin emphasized that Russia has never refused peace talks. “Russia, as you know, never said ‘no’ and is now ready to continue peace talks. Ukraine has refused to negotiate and has done so publicly, on the direct orders of London and Washington, and Ukrainian officials are saying so directly and openly,” the Russian president emphasized, according to whom “there is a danger that the Ukrainian side will take advantage of the possible truce to rearm, increase the number of troops, and, in short, prepare for new hostilities thanks to Western military aid.” In any case, “the agreements reached after the Russian-Ukrainian talks in Istanbul in 2022 may serve as a basis for new negotiations.”

“We cannot simply impose a ceasefire now in the hope that the other side will take positive steps,” the Russian president said. “We cannot allow the enemy to take advantage of the truce to improve its position, arm itself, strengthen its army through forced mobilization, and prepare to continue the armed conflict,” Putin reiterated. To end the armed conflict, Russia must be absolutely certain that Ukraine will agree to take measures that are “irreversible and acceptable to the Russian Federation.”

On March 9, Orbán visited Donald Trump. It is possible that the Hungarian Prime Minister gave Putin a personal message from a likely future US President. In this context, Putin once again commented on the former US president’s statements on possible ways to resolve the conflict. “We take very seriously the fact that Trump as a presidential candidate says he wants to stop the war in Ukraine. Obviously, I don’t know how he plans to do it, and that’s the key question. However, I have no doubt that he says it sincerely. We will support him,” Putin said.

For Russia, Brussels’s extremist stance represents a real obstacle to peace talks. On the eve of Orbán’s trip to Moscow, outgoing European Council President Charles Michel confirmed that Orbán could not engage with Russia on behalf of the European Union. “The European Council makes it clear: Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is the victim. No discussion on Ukraine can take place without Ukraine,” Michel wrote in a post on X social network (formerly Twitter). The Kremlin called these statements by Michel “shameful anti-Russian propaganda,” recalling that “after the bloody Maidan coup in Kiev in 2014, the Ukrainian nationalist regime killed the Russian population of Donbass for 10 years, forcing Russia to stand up in defense of its oppressed compatriots.”

Another central topic of the Kremlin talks was the export of Russian natural gas to Eastern European countries. Hungary is heavily dependent on Gazprom supplies, which reach Budapest via the former Soviet Druzhba gas pipeline network that runs through Ukraine. The contract for the transit of Russian gas between Kiev and Russian oil and gas company Gazprom expires in December 2024, and the Ukrainian side has already said it has no intention of extending it. Instead, Gazprom, which exports an average of 42 to 43 million cubic meters of gas per day to Europe, has nothing against extending its contract with Ukraine’s Naftogaz.