Orban’s Surprise Visit to Moscow Sparks Outrage in Brussels: Hungarian PM’s ‘Peace Mission’ Raises Eyebrows

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban made an unexpected trip to Russia on Friday, meeting with President Vladimir Putin to discuss potential solutions to the Ukraine conflict. This surprise visit followed a similar unannounced trip to Ukraine just days prior and sparked significant anger among Orban’s fellow EU leaders.

Hungary currently holds the rotating EU presidency. However, Orban maintains that he doesn’t need a mandate from Brussels to promote peace, emphasizing that his discussions with Putin shouldn’t be considered official negotiations.

Peace mission

Orban described his trip as the initial step in restoring dialogue. Criticizing Western military aid to Ukraine, he stated that while he lacked an EU mandate for his trips, peace couldn’t be achieved “from a comfortable armchair in Brussels.”

“We cannot sit back and wait for the war to miraculously end,” he posted on X (formerly Twitter) before meeting with Putin.

Earlier in the week, Orban visited Kiev, where he urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pursue peace with Russia, arguing that a ceasefire could serve as a constructive first step. Orban later revealed that Zelensky didn’t receive his proposal well. Kiev maintains that only a military victory will lead to a “just peace.”

“Shortest way out” of Ukraine conflict

The Hungarian Prime Minister expressed his desire to directly hear from Putin how Russia perceives various peace initiatives, calling this an important step, even though the candid discussion confirmed a significant gap between the opposing sides.

Putin and Orban discussed the “shortest way out” of the conflict, as revealed by Orban to journalists afterwards. He admitted that Moscow and Kiev’s positions remain very “far apart.”

“A lot of steps have to be taken to get closer to a resolution of the war. Still, we’ve already taken the most important step – establishing the contact, and I will continue to work on this in the future,” Orban stated.

Moscow’s vision

Putin informed Orban that he had outlined his vision for resolving the conflict in a keynote speech at the Foreign Ministry the previous month and is willing to discuss its details.

Putin’s proposal, which he alluded to, involved suspending hostilities immediately after Kiev abandons its NATO bid and orders its troops to withdraw from all territories claimed by Moscow. This would be followed by a comprehensive discussion on a new security architecture in Europe, Putin suggested. The Ukrainian government has rejected this offer.

The Russian president reiterated Moscow’s commitment to resolving hostilities through negotiations. However, he noted that the Ukrainian leadership seems unable to abandon its pursuit of a war “until the end.”

Moscow is seeking to achieve lasting, sustainable peace rather than opting for a temporary ceasefire or a “frozen conflict” of any kind, Putin cautioned.

There should not be a “ceasefire or some kind of pause that the Kiev regime could use to recover losses, regroup, and rearm. Russia is in favor of a complete and final end to the conflict,” Putin stressed.

Fury in Brussels

Despite Orban’s earlier assertion that he wasn’t representing the EU, his trip to Moscow drew sharp rebukes from EU leaders and officials.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accused Hungary’s prime minister of “appeasement” towards Putin. “Only unity and determination will pave the path to a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in Ukraine,” she claimed.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated that Orban’s visit to Russia had no connection to the EU, and that the bloc’s stance on the conflict remains unchanged.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a vocal supporter of Kiev, criticized Orban after rumors of his impending visit began circulating in the media on Thursday. Tusk expressed disbelief that such a visit could occur.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who is set to become the EU’s next foreign policy and security chief, joined the chorus of Western officials reprimanding Orban. She claimed that the Hungarian prime minister intends to “sow confusion.”

Ukraine conflict’s broader impact

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is impacting the broader European region, according to the Hungarian PM, who pointed out that the continent has experienced its most rapid and sustainable development only during peacetime.

Orban previously expressed concern that the West’s determination to escalate the Ukraine conflict could lead to a direct clash with Russia, potentially having catastrophic consequences for all involved.

Budapest has argued that the economic restrictions resulting from the conflict have harmed EU nations more than Russia and haven’t compelled Moscow to concede.