Hungary 'helping Putin' in the war, says Ukraine's foreign ministry

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By Joshua Askew
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban acknowledges cheering supporters during an election night rally in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, April 3, 2022.
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban acknowledges cheering supporters during an election night rally in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, April 3, 2022.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File

Ukraine has accused Hungary of "helping Putin" in the war, a day after the country's leader Viktor Orban said he was prepared to break ranks with the EU and buy Russian gas in roubles.

Without naming him, Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement that following Orban's recent election victory, Hungary was now moving to a "next step - to help Putin continue his aggression against Ukraine, the civilised world and Christian values."

"The Hungarian leadership's reluctance to acknowledge Russia's undeniable responsibility for the Russian army's atrocities... is designed to consciously strengthen Russia's sense of impunity and encourage it to commit new atrocities against Ukrainians," he continued.

Nikolenko said Hungary's readiness to pay for Russian gas in roubles was a hostile move toward Ukraine and undermined EU unity.

Russia wants its customers to pay for gas in roubles to help shore up the Russian economy and blunt the impact of international sanctions, a move labelled as 'black mail' by several European states.

Europe has spent between €200-800 million per day on Russian gas so far this year and converting this into roubles would be a massive boost for the country.

Nikolenko pointed to the intertwined nature of Ukraine and Hungary to suggest that the two countries should cooperate, not undermine, one another.

"Ukrainians and Hungarians have centuries of historical, political, economic and cultural ties. Ukraine is home to about 150,000 Ukrainian Hungarians. At the same time, the logic that guides politicians in Budapest today, playing into Russia's aggressive policies, is detrimental to both our peoples," he added.

The spokesman described the Hungarian proposal to host peace talks between Ukraine and Russia as "cynical."

Orban proposed a meeting in Budapest with the leaders of Ukraine, France and Germany on Wednesday, and said he had spoken to Putin personally and suggested "an immediate ceasefire."

"The response was positive but the Russian President says he has certain conditions," he added, without explaining what these were.

Hungary has refused to allow shipments of arms across its territory to Ukraine, its northeastern neighbour, while Orban has said his government would block any attempt by the EU to extend sanctions to Russian oil and gas.

He reiterated that Hungary would not provide any weapons to Ukraine and rebuked President Zelenskyy after he called on Western leaders to provide Ukraine with heavy weaponry, such as fighter jets and tanks.

Zelenskyy "has a bad habit of telling everyone what to do," Orban told reporters last week. "It would be better if he dropped that habit."

Budapest has so far backed EU sanctions against Russia because Orban says "unity [in the EU] is important" but warned extending sanctions to include energy supplies from Russia would be "a red line."

"It will kill Hungary," he said, claiming that sanctions against Russia are already inflating energy prices and harming the continent's economy.

Nikolenko fiercely criticised Hungary's stance towards Russia, claiming it was worsening the conflict.

"If Hungary really wants to help end the war, here's how to do it: stop destroying unity in the EU, support new anti-Russian sanctions, provide military assistance to Ukraine, and not create additional sources of funding for Russia's military machine," Nikolenko said.

"It is never too late to get to the right side of history."