By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News reporting from Budapest, Hungary
BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán faces mounting international pressure to distance himself from Russia after evidence of war crimes emerged in Ukraine.
Even Hungary’s long-time ally Poland has expressed concern about Orbán’s perceived cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose military invaded Ukraine.
Poland’s most powerful politician, Jarosław Kaczyński, slammed Orbán for refusing to condemn Russia for hundreds of civilian killings in the town of Bucha, Ukraine.
It came after Orbán failed to mention to reporters that the Russian president spoke with him about the massacre in an extensive phone conversation last week.
Putin described the reported atrocities as “a rough and cynical provocation from the Kyiv regime, “ according to a Kremlin transcript of the talks.
“My assessment is unequivocally negative — I must admit that it is all very sad,” Kaczyński, the deputy prime minister and leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, told Polish media. “When Orbán says that he cannot see what happened in Bucha, he must be advised to see an eye doctor.”
In his first press conference after winning a fourth term in office on Wednesday, Orbán said he had called Russian President Vladimir Putin to ask for an “immediate cease-fire” in Ukraine.
But the prime minister, who has multi-billion dollar energy deals with Putin, refused to condemn Russia over the events in Bucha explicitly.
He said that an investigation should come first since “we live in a time of mass manipulation.”
As tensions rose, his press chief rushed over the weekend to say that “Orbán evidently condemns the massacre committed in Bucha.”
He said that Hungary “will in every possible form support the international investigation aimed at identifying the perpetrators of that bloodshed.”
But that did little to ease tensions with Poland, a country Hungary needs in its battle with the European Union.
The EU recently froze 7.2 billion euros ($7.9 billion) in subsidies to Hungary over rule-of-law concerns and threatened to halt billions more unless it strengthens judicial and media independence.
Poland, a fellow EU member state, had made clear it would oppose moves that could seriously harm Hungary’s economic progress.
However, Kaczyński criticized the Hungarian leader’s continued dialogue with Putin and warned that it could have implications for the Warsaw-Budapest alliance. “We cannot cooperate as we had in the past if this continues,” he said.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky renewed his attack on Orbán, saying he had failed to show moral leadership and lacked honesty. “He is virtually the only one in Europe to support Mr. Putin openly,” Zelensky stressed.
Orbán has denied wrongdoing, explaining that he doesn’t want his country to become part of the war in neighboring Ukraine.
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