A longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a thorn in the side of fellow EU leaders, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, has experienced a week of sharp reversals and swift political retreats. The EU started work on an initial round of sanctions against Moscow after Russia formally recognized Luhansk and Donetsk as Russian-backed separatist-controlled regions in Ukraine. But there was still one question to be answered in Brussels: Will Hungary and its nationalist leader Orban approve them?
It was a key moment for Orban to show whether he was loyal to Russia, or the EU, said an EU official, who preferred to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the discussions. Many political experts were surprised by the response from Hungary’s prime minister which has been welcomed in Brussels, per report.
“It is important that Hungary has joined and fostered EU unity,” another EU official said, who also preferred to remain anonymous.
Orban referenced at a joint news conference in early February, speaking of how they had worked together for the last 13 years while adding that the two “have the longest memory of the European Union and Russia’s leadership.”
For example, their close links could be seen during the pandemic, as Hungary became the first EU nation to buy a Russian-made Covid vaccine, even though it wasn’t approved by European regulators. And many other deals happened between the two through the years.
But in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Orban has, so far, turned his back on Putin and chosen the EU.
Hungary will welcome Ukrainian refugees and is also supportive of Ukraine’s membership application to the EU.
“Orban is an opportunist. He would get very little out of siding with Russia these days. Future support from Putin is very uncertain and might not play well with his own electorate. This is why he goes along with the sanctions,” Daniel Gros said, distinguished fellow at the think tank CEPS.
“He wants to be a respected leader and senses that his population does not want to have a fight with the EU,” Gros added.
In another report, Elon Musk had issued warning to Ukrainians using his Starlink system. He wanted them to be safe since it’s allegedly the only non-Russian communication system in that particular area, said report.