Hungary’s Viktor Orban turns on Putin after Ukraine invasion

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Vladimir Putin moved closer to being a pariah on Saturday as longtime admirer Viktor Orban pledged Hungary's support for all European Union sanctions against Russia.

The Hungarian prime minister said it was the “time to be united” as Russia waged war in Ukraine. He added that peace efforts were most important.

Speaking on the Hungary-Ukraine border, he said: “Hungary made clear that we support all the sanctions, so we will block nothing, so what the prime ministers of the European Union are able to agree, we accept it and we support it.”

Crucially, it could also mean Hungary backing a ban on Russia using the Swift global payments system. The Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said on Saturday he had spoken with Mr Orban and been “assured” that he would not block far-reaching sanctions.

Mr Orban has long been a prominent pro-Russian voice in the EU, meeting with Mr Putin frequently despite opposition in Brussels. He has pursued an “eastern opening” strategy to closer ties with countries to the east.

Some have said that Mr Orban has used his 12 years in power to reshape Hungary in the model of Mr Putin's Russia, strangling dissent by gaining power over the media and surrounding himself with powerful businessmen.

Follow live updates on the war in Ukraine here.

Weeks ago, as Russian troops amassed on the Ukraine border, the Hungarian prime minister lobbied for increased shipments of natural gas from Moscow.

Orban (left) meets with Putin on 1 February (EPA)
Orban (left) meets with Putin on 1 February (EPA)

The EU had then begun searching for alternative suppliers of natural gas to reduce dependency on Russia, which it feared would use its 40 per cent hold on the European market to apply diplomatic pressure for its security demands.

Mr Orban said his meeting was also in order to seek peace, saying he did not want a conflict with Russia. But he said he was opposed to sanctions, calling them ineffective.

On Thursday, he condemned the Russian invasion and stressed unity with Nato and the EU.

Refugees at a temporary shelter over the Hungarian border after fleeing Ukraine (Getty)
Refugees at a temporary shelter over the Hungarian border after fleeing Ukraine (Getty)

A package of sanctions targeting Russian banks and state-owned companies was agreed by the European Commission on Friday.

Hungary, with Germany, were holding out against banning Russia from the Swift global payments system.