Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to heads of state and government at the EU summit on Thursday night by video, summarizing the damage caused by Russian aggression that began a month ago, and mentioning the attack on Chernobyl, the civilian casualties, and the daily suffering of his people.
He then went through all of the countries that supported Ukraine, but left Hungary to the end. In a firm voice, he addressed Prime Minister Viktor Orbán directly:
Hungary … I want to stop here and be honest. Once and for all. You have to decide for yourself who you are with. You are a sovereign state. I’ve been to Budapest. I adore your city. I have been there many times – a very beautiful, very hospitable city. And the people too.
You have had tragic moments in your life. I visited your waterfront. I saw this memorial… shoes on the banks of the Danube. About mass killings. I was there with my family.
Listen, Viktor, do you know what’s going on in Mariupol? Please, if you can, go down to your waterfront. Look at those shoes. And you will see how mass killings can happen again in today’s world.
And that is what Russia is doing today. The same shoes. In Mariupol, there are the same people. Adults and children. Grandparents. And there are thousands of them. And these thousands are gone.
And you hesitate whether to impose sanctions or not? And you hesitate whether to let weapons through or not? And you hesitate whether to trade with Russia or not? There is no time to hesitate. It’s time to decide already.
Orbán rejects Zelenskyy’s plea for help
Viktor Orbán responded to the Ukrainian President’s comments on Friday morning through his press chief:
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has rejected the demands made on Hungary by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the European Council, as they are contrary to Hungary’s interests.
The statement by Bertalan Havasi claims that the President of Ukraine asked Hungary and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for two things:
The first is to vote to extend the sanctions to the energy sector, and for Hungary not to buy gas and oil from Russia. His second request was for Hungary to allow arms shipments to pass through the country and to send weapons to Ukraine.
But Viktor Orbán rejected both of these requests, as:
These are contrary to Hungary’s interests. Hungary wants to stay out of this war, and therefore will not allow arms shipments through the country or send weapons to Ukraine. At the same time, it is using all of its means to help those fleeing the war and provide them with humanitarian assistance.
Havasi’s statement also mentioned that as of Thursday, half a million Ukrainian refugees had arrived in Hungary, which has also provided 2 billion Ft. (US $5.90 million) in aid to Ukraine.
The statement also noted that:
Shutting off oil and gas would be equivalent to Hungarian families bearing the cost of the war. Gas heats 85% of Hungarian households, and 64% of Hungarian oil imports come from Russia.
The press chief added that it takes 3-4 years to convert oil refineries to refine oil imported from other sources, and the amount of Russian natural gas currently being used cannot be physically sourced from any other source.
Bertalan Havasi reiterated the government’s position that Hungary would not make Hungarian families pay for the cost of the war, and that they would continue to oppose extending sanctions to the Russian energy sector.
Márki-Zay: Orbán has brought shame to Hungary
United opposition leader Péter Márki-Zay responded to Orbán’s flat refusal of his Ukrainian counterpart with a sharply-worded response on Facebook:
Viktor Orbán has again brought shame to Hungary. Because it really is time to choose a side: it has now become clear that his 12-year policy has ended up on the trash heap of history. He is the one who has been isolated, who has lost his allies, who Putin sees as his last ally in the EU and NATO.
-wrote Márki-Zay, the prime-ministerial candidate for opposition coalition United for Hungary.
The politician agreed with the words expressed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying one needs to choose a side, here and now. “Putin or Europe? East or West?” asked Márki-Zay.
But the Hódmezővásárhely mayor believes we can no longer entrust this choice to Viktor Orbán, and will have to decide it for ourselves at the polls on April 3. It’s in everyone’s interest for this war to end as soon as possible, he believes, but this requires Viktor Orbán to no longer finance Russia “with Paks II, secret loan agreements, and adherence to the Russian ‘spy bank.'”
Márki-Zay also claimed that Orbán had become an unreliable partner to NATO by taking “at least three different positions over the past few weeks.” At the same time, he claimed United for Hungary had remained consistent:
Our position is clear: we must defend Hungary’s security as a loyal member of the Western alliance system. Orbán is the problem here, and a new government is the solution.