BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s nationalist prime minister warns that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could send hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees fleeing across the border into his country.
Right-wing populist leader Viktor Orban, speaking in an annual address that this year kicked off his political campaign for Hungary’s parliamentary election on April 3, urges a peaceful resolution to the rising tensions in Europe that have stemmed from fears of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Orban — a firm opponent of any types of immigration — says it’s in Hungary’s best interest to “avoid war,” which he says would cause a wave of Ukrainian refugees and a disruption of the economy.
While urging a resolution of the tensions through dialogue, Orban says he opposed plans by the European Union to use sanctions against Russia — which has built up over 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders — as a deterrent.
“Sanctions, punitive policies, lecturing or any other kind of arrogance on the part of the great powers are out of the question,” Orban says.
Orban, who has led Hungary since 2010, has sought one of the closest relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin of any European leader. In a meeting with Putin in the Kremlin last week, Orban lobbied for increased gas shipments from Russia and lauded his country’s increased cooperation with Moscow in the areas of energy, trade and security.
Since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Hungary under Orban has consistently opposed leveling EU sanctions against Moscow, although it has always ultimately voted for them.