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Zelenskyy's demands for Ukraine 'not in Hungary's interests', says Orban

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By Euronews
Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban, left, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right.
Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban, left, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right.   -   Copyright  Credit: AP   -  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticised his neighbouring EU country Hungary in an impassioned speech to European Union leaders on Thursday.

"You have to decide for yourself who you are with," Zelenskyy said, addressing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban directly.

Zelenskyy urged Orban to put himself in Ukraine's shoes and think about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the port city of Mariupol that has been subject to constant shelling.

Hungary has supported EU sanctions against Russia and condemned the war, but Orban has also tried to stay out of the conflict.

While Orban has let NATO troops be stationed in the country, he banned the shipment of weapons and other lethal equipment to Kyiv even as other EU countries join the US in providing military equipment to Ukraine.

In a message to EU leaders on Friday, Orban "rejected" demands for arms deliveries and tougher sanctions, deeming them "against the interests" of his country .

"Hungary wants to stay out of this war and will not authorize the transfer of arms to Ukraine," Orban reiterated, according to comments reported by government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs.

"For us, the security of Hungary and the Hungarian people is paramount," foreign minister Péter Szijjártó wrote on Facebook on Friday in response to Zelenskyy's speech.

"We will do everything in our power to keep Hungary out of the war, so we will not allow arms shipments on our territory."

Szijjártó said that Hungary also did not want its people to pay the price of the war and were against banning natural gas and oil from Russia. Hungary is heavily reliant on these imports as part of its energy sector.

Marius Dragomir, a visiting professor at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, recently argued in an editorial for Euronews that Orban was attempting a balancing act over the crisis as a leader who has forged a close relationship with the Kremlin.

Zelenskyy criticises EU sanctions as a 'little late'

In his address to the EU Council, Zelenskyy both welcomes EU support but criticised leaders, saying that sanctions against Russia came "a little late".

"You have applied sanctions. We are grateful. These are powerful steps but it was a little late," Zelenskyy said in an address to the EU council.

"If it had been preventive, Russia would not have gone to war. At least no one knows for sure. There was a chance," he added.

He commended Germany for blocking Nord Stream 2 but again reiterated that the move could have been more timely.

The Ukrainian president also reissued a plea to join the European Union, begging leaders not to "be late" on letting the country into the bloc.