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Hungarian PM Orban Lashes Back at Zelensky Over Criticism for Not Backing Anti-Russia Sanctions

© REUTERS / BERNADETT SZABOHungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban leaves the stage after delivering his annual state of the nation speech in Budapest, Hungary, February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban leaves the stage after delivering his annual state of the nation speech in Budapest, Hungary, February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.03.2022
Hungary's prime minister earlier stood up against imposing new sanctions on Russia targeting its energy sector despite calls to do so by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The latter urged EU nations to cut all business ties with Moscow and help supply Kiev with weapons.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has stated that Budapest will be standing up for its own interests and not for Ukrainian or Russian interests in the ongoing situation in Ukraine. The moment came as he responded to criticism by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Orban called Kiev's stance to request NATO's involvement and weapons supplies understandable, but stressed that Hungary is not Ukraine or Russia and has its own interests that need to be defended.

"Answering the question 'which side is Hungary on?' we say this: 'Hungary is on the side of Hungary'. We help those who are in trouble, but we must stand up for our own national interests", Orban said in an interview with the local TV channel M1.

The prime minister added that both covert and overt discussions are constantly taking place on the matter of the EU and NATO's involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. He noted that Budapest is consistently being forced to defend its own interests and stressed the importance of a government that can do so, instead of simply obeying the will of other countries.
Since the start of the Russian special operation in Ukraine to demilitarise and "de-Nazify" the country, Hungary has provided refuge to Ukrainians fleeing their homeland, but systematically refused to provide military assistance to Kiev or allow weapons shipments through its territory. This stance drew President Zelensky's criticism during his address to EU leaders during a virtual conference on 24 March.
"Once and for all, you should decide who you are with. The time has come for you to make a decision", the Ukrainian president said.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk went even further rhetorically wondering if Budapest refuses to back new anti-Russian sanctions against the energy sector because it wants "Russian gas with a discount" or because it silently "dreams of" Transcarpathia – a region in Western Ukraine with a notable ethnic Hungarian minority.
EU countries previously slapped Russia with harsh economic sanctions targeting its Central Bank, access to European financial markets, the Russian banking sector, as well as certain officials and businesses allegedly connected to the Kremlin. Brussels stopped short of banning Russian gas and oil purchases, but vowed to lower them by the end of the year. The bloc's leading politicians did not explain how they plan to replace the gas and oil supplies from Russia, which make up around one-third of overall energy shipments to the EU.
Moscow recently responded to the sanctions by unveiling plans to make "unfriendly nations" pay for Russian natural gas and crude shipments using its national currency – the ruble.
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