Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - Photo: PMO

Orbán: Hungary continues to insist it will not send weapons to Ukraine

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview on Friday that he had held successful talks at the European Union summit in Brussels the previous day, and Hungary maintained its position that it would not send weapons to Ukraine. Orbán told public radio that Hungary only allowed financial contributions towards efforts to prevent the collapse of the Ukrainian state.

He said peace was the crucial issue as regards the war between Russia and Ukraine but “the situation is not good in this respect, since Brussels is feverish for war” and European leaders argued along the lines of the logic of war.

Brussels should focus all its efforts on peace and aim towards achieving a ceasefire as soon as possible, followed by peace talks, he added.

Two years have passed in the war, he noted, adding that “all kinds of hopes” of the Ukrainians and the West had “failed to materialise”. “The war is ongoing; hundreds of thousands of people have died, and basically a massacre is taking place on the frontlines,” he said.

Orbán said the 50 billion euros approved for Ukraine on Thursday would not pay for weapons but for the running of the Ukrainian state. The Ukrainian economy, he said, had “essentially collapsed” and was “on life support”. Unless the US sends money, pensions and wages would not be paid and there would be no hospital services, he added.

Hungary had wanted the EU to send money “in the interest of peace”, but this was not possible because “Westerners still think that time is on their side”, Orbán said. “They believe that the longer the war lasts, Ukraine’s military situation will get better and better,” he added.

“I believe the opposite. I believe that time is on the Russians’ side and the longer the war lasts, the more people will die and power relations will not improve to Ukraine’s advantage,” he said. “Why pursue the war in that case? It’s the decision of Ukrainians because it’s their country and they want to make war,” Orbán said. At the same time, “Hungary will not send weapons to the Ukrainians,” he added.

The prime minister said had EU member states been unable to reach an agreement, the 26 remaining member states may have agreed on the funds needed for the running of the Ukrainian state and taken “our money away … and sent it to Ukraine”.

He said the EU summit had ended successfully because an agreement was reached with the big powers ensuring that “money cannot be taken away” from Hungary.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said the Hungarian left wing was “pro-war”, and they “always want to agree with Brussels” on how Hungary should take part in the war. “I always strive to come to an agreement with Brussels on how this should not happen,” he added.

“How they managed to get from five thousand helmets to F16s over two years is a one-million-dollar question,” Orbán said. He added that it was a natural psychological process that when someone started supporting something small-scale, they would identify with the supported side.

Orbán said he had noticed in Brussels that after some time, people started talking about “our war” and “Ukrainians fighting for us”. “This is a total misconception,” he said, adding that “in the German press there is world-war atmosphere”.

“It is obvious that the Russians cannot even defeat Ukraine for the time being, so how could they go against the whole of NATO?” he said.

Orbán said “absurd arguments” were being made, and people found it difficult to accept that what they had started had gone in the wrong direction and changes were needed.

He said the voice of those fostering stronger relations with the United States was getting louder in the European Union. The viewpoints of Brussels and America, he added, had got mixed up. Decisions in Brussels, he said, “often follow American interests rather than European ones”.

“One thing’s certain: there will only be peace when things change in Brussels,” the prime minister said.

In December, they “fought for the monies due to Hungary”, Orbán said, adding that Hungary had now “received a guarantee” that disbursements would not stop and the funds would not be sent to Ukraine.

“I would be very surprised if this agreement weren’t fulfilled,” he said.

The prime minister said that when it came to disputes, both Brussels and Hungary had “tools in their hands”. “True, the size of our tools differ — they are 26 countries — and if there is no agreement they can damage us , but the damage we can cause them would also be unpleasant,” he said. “Everyone would like to avoid this,” he added.

“I went as far as I could, to the precipice,” Orbán said. Had Hungary used its veto, the other 26 countries would have come to an agreement and sent the money to Ukraine, even taking Hungarians’ money away and giving it to Ukraine,” he added.

This would have entailed “huge conflicts which everyone wanted to avoid”, he said. “Eventually, a good solution was found: Hungary isn’t sending weapons to Brussels, the country will receive its money from Brussels, and will contribute to the civilian maintenance of Ukraine,” he added.

It is unfair on European farmers that “Brussels has introduced regulations that make production increasingly expensive while allowing the import of produce from countries where the rules do not apply,” Orbán said.

Orbán told public radio that Ukrainian agricultural products should not be allowed to enter the European market under the current conditions, “though it would be best not to allow them at all”.

Orbán said the farmers were protesting because they felt their voice was not being heard. Their only means to change this “is to stand in the squares, blare their horns and fight the police,” he said.

The prime minister said there had been a strenuous debate about this issue at the EU leaders summit, and several leaders had called on the European Commission not to allow Ukrainian agricultural imports.

He added that he had met farmers demonstrating in Brussels, and they asked the Poles, the Slovaks and Hungarians to block Ukrainian shipments at the border of Europe.

“It’s not without reason there’s a sense that Brussels often represents someone else’s interests rather than European interests,” Orbán said, adding that the same feeling emerged in Hungary’s parliament. “When it comes to the issue of weapons for Ukraine, for instance, [there is the sense that] the Hungarian left wing is financed from abroad,” the prime minister said.

“Those who are giving them the money are all pro-war,” Orbán said, insisting that the money was donated with the purpose of involving Hungary in the war through the left wing.

In Brussels, too, “you can often see that they represent the interests of the other side”, he said. “If there is too big a distance between voters and leaders, the leaders will be sent off,” he said, adding that Hungarians would soon have a chance to take part in the European parliamentary elections in June.

Reflecting on the meeting of Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitro Kuleba, earlier this week, Orbán noted that Kuleba had called Orbán and Szijjarto “pro-Hungary, not pro-Russia”.

Orbán said Hungary was a sovereign country, and as such, was “not interested in the Ukrainian opinion”. “We don’t need a kosher label from Ukraine.”

Hungary’s foreign policy will represent the interests of Hungarians equally against Ukraine, Russia and the US, he said.

As regards Hungary-Ukraine relations, Orbán reiterated that Hungary supported Ukraine in terms of peace, though Transcarpathian Hungarians had been “deprived of their rights since 2015 in a way reminiscent of old communist times”. “Chances for a change after Thursday’s EU summit are better, though this has yet to be implemented,” he added.

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