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Orban visits Zelensky in Ukraine

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KYIV — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the European Union’s most prominent critic of providing Ukraine with military aid, arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in his first visit since Russia’s invasion more than two years ago.

His meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky comes just a day after Hungary took over the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the E.U. and is a rare gesture in what has been a fraught relationship between the leaders of the neighboring countries.

Orban has repeatedly blocked or weakened European efforts to provide Ukraine with security assistance throughout the war, frustrating Zelensky. He does not permit donated Western weapons to be transferred to Ukraine over the two countries’ shared border.

On Tuesday, Orban suggested Ukraine should agree to a cease-fire with Russia as part of an effort to begin negotiations to end the fighting. Kyiv has outlined a 10-point peace plan that it has asked countries to support, but it has rejected agreeing to a cessation of hostilities while Russian troops are still occupying Ukraine because it could just give Moscow an opportunity to rearm and renew its attacks aimed at seizing Ukrainian territory.

“I told [Zelensky] that his initiatives require a lot of time due to international diplomatic rules,” Orban said Tuesday. He added that he asked Zelensky “to consider whether it might be possible to do things a bit differently — to stop the fire and then negotiate with Russia, as a cease-fire would speed up the pace of these negotiations.”

Orban has also delayed Ukraine’s bid to join the 27-member bloc. In December, the Hungarian leader left the room during a meeting with E.U. counterparts to abstain from a vote to open Ukraine accession talks, allowing other leaders to vote unanimously in favor. In October, Orban met Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an event in China.

Budapest claims that Kyiv is failing to guarantee the rights of its Hungarian minority in Ukraine’s western Zakarpattia region. Orban’s government has presented a list of 11 conditions related to the minority’s legal protection before it agrees to Ukraine’s E.U. membership.

Though taking on the rotating presidency of the European Union has limited power, some E.U. lawmakers have expressed concern that Hungary’s pro-Russian track record makes it unfit for the role. Along with hindering aid to Ukraine, Orban has also opposed E.U. sanctions on Russia.


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Zelensky wrote Monday on X that he wished Hungary “effectiveness in promoting our shared European values, goals and interests.”

“While advancing on its path to the E.U., Ukraine is ready to contribute to these efforts and strengthen our Europe,” Zelensky said.

Brady reported from Berlin. Serhiy Morgunov in Kyiv contributed to this report.

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