‘We want to stay out of this war’: Hungary PM rejects Zelensky appeal for tougher Russia sanctions

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual state of the nation speech in Varkert Bazaar conference hall of Budapest, Hungary, February 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi)
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual state of the nation speech in Varkert Bazaar conference hall of Budapest, Hungary, February 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban dismisses an EU summit appeal by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for weapons and tougher sanctions against Russia as it would be “against Hungary’s interests.”

The nationalist premier “rejected (Zelensky’s) demands at the European Council because they are contrary to the interests of Hungary,” says Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltan Kovacs.

“Hungary wants to stay out of this war, so it will not allow the transfer of arms and weapons to Ukraine,” Kovacs says in a statement.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began last month, EU and NATO member Hungary, while letting in over half a million Ukrainian refugees, has refused to send military aid to Kyiv, or let it cross its territory.

A significant ethnic-Hungarian minority in Ukraine’s westernmost region of Transcarpathia would be threatened if Hungary sent weapons to Kyiv, Orban has insisted.

Hungary’s dependency on Russian gas and oil also means it cannot support an import ban according to Orban who has cultivated close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years.

“That would mean Hungarian families paying the price of war,” Orban says.

“Listen, Viktor, do you know what’s going on in Mariupol?” said Zelensky during an address to EU leaders in a video message Thursday, referring to Ukraine’s besieged southeastern port city.

“Once and for all, you should decide who you are with,” he says.

Urging Orban to approve expanding sanctions, let weapons through to Ukraine, and cut off business ties with Russia, Zelensky said “there is no time for hesitation”.

“The time has come for you to make a decision,” he says.

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