Russian President Vladimir Putin shook hands with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in China on Tuesday – the first handshake between the Russian president and an EU leader since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
According to Russian state media TASS, Orbán told Putin that “Hungary has never sought to confront Russia. Quite the opposite is true: Hungary has always pursued the goal of building and developing the best communication.”
Putin said: “it is very important to have the opportunity to exchange views not only on bilateral relations, but also on the situation in the world and in Europe with one of the EU countries – with Hungary in this case”, adding: “we know that our positions do not always coincide, but the possibility of exchanging points of view is always, in my opinion, extremely important.”
The meeting took place Tuesday during a two-day forum marking the 10th anniversary of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, during which Orbán and Putin discussed cooperation in the transportation of natural gas and crude oil as well as nuclear energy.
The Hungarian leader has maintained a close personal relationship with Putin over the years and has been slow to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and maintain a pro-Russia stance in the conflict.
In the spring, a senior Kiev official warned that a series of deals strengthening Hungary’s energy ties with Russia would only prolong the war in Ukraine. “If you saw the video in which the Russians cut off the head of a Ukrainian soldier, the Hungarians are the ones paying for the knife,” Oleg Ustenko, economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, told POLITICO.