The conversation, which Zelensky described as “frank” but did not divulge the details, came amidst the backdrop of divisive opinions for aid to Ukraine in both the EU and the US, two of Ukraine’s major backers in its fight against Russia.
“It was as frank as possible – and obviously, it was about our European affairs,” he said.
The conversation came right before an EU summit due to take place today that would decide on weapon supplies and approve €50 billion ($54 billion) worth of financial aid to Ukraine, as well as Ukraine’s accession negotiations into the bloc.
Hungary has opposed both the accession and the upcoming financial aid.
Meanwhile, Orbán is set to meet with representatives from the Heritage Foundation, a US Republican think tank that has been vocally opposed to aid in Ukraine, where the group’s vice president, Victoria Coates, said “It’s time to end the blank, undated checks for Ukraine” in a social media post.
“It’s time to end the blank, undated checks for Ukraine.” - @VictoriaCoates— Heritage Foundation (@Heritage) August 25, 2023
You won’t believe what the Biden administration is doing to try and coerce Congress to authorize more unaccountable aid for Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/nPJF2TK1dZ
Orbán’s planned closed-door meeting with the Heritage Foundation came amidst the backdrop of Republicans blocking a US emergency spending bill for Ukraine initiated by the Biden administration, with many speculating that Orbán would rally for an end to US aid for Ukraine within the Republican party.
Orbán, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has a history of stalling and blocking Western support for Ukraine, even calling the country “one of the most corrupt countries in the world” in a recent interview with French news outlet Le Point.
While there are substantial speculations that Orbán acted on behalf of Putin due to the close ties between the two, some European diplomats believed that Hungary also used Ukraine’s EU candidacy as a bargaining chip over frozen funds from Brussels caused by a rule-of-law dispute.
“This shouldn’t be a game of bargaining, but of course, in this situation, we need to find all channels possible which can aid in finding a conclusion,” said Finland’s Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen, who described Hungary’s position as “deplorable.”
The dispute arose in July this year, with Brussels deciding to withhold funding due to Hungary’s unsatisfactory rule-of-law performance, citing a “serious concern” caused by “the lack of a robust track record of investigations of corruption allegations concerning high-level officials and their immediate circle” in their annual report.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the EU's potential failure to open Ukraine’s membership talks could have “devastating consequences,” likely in reference to Russia’s territorial ambitions which could further encroach the sovereignty of other EU member states.
“I cannot imagine,” Kuleba told reporters in Brussels, “I don’t even want to talk about the devastating consequences that will occur should the Council fail to make this decision.”
Hungary’s opposition, coupled with Ukraine’s recent border dispute with Poland and Slovakia, presented a grim picture of European solidarity for Ukraine.
As Hungary possesses veto power within the EU despite the general support within the bloc, Ukraine’s European future and aspirations remain uncertain.
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