Hungary's PM Orban criticises Ukraine's move to stop ex-president at border

  • World
  • Thursday, 21 Dec 2023

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban holds an annual international media briefing in Budapest, Hungary, December 21, 2023. REUTERS/Marton Monus

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Ukraine's decision to prevent former president Petro Poroshenko from leaving the country earlier this month to meet Hungary's prime minister raises questions over Kyiv's European Union ambitions, Viktor Orban told a briefing on Thursday.

Ukraine's security service said on Dec. 2 that it had prevented Poroshenko from leaving Ukraine on grounds that Russia planned to exploit a planned meeting with Orban to hurt Ukrainian interests.

Poroshenko's political party, European Solidarity, said the former president had scheduled only meetings in Poland and the United States and warned the SBU security service against becoming involved in politics. Orban's office did not comment at the time.

On Thursday, when asked about the Ukrainian decision directly, Orban said the fact that the Ukrainians introduced special rules in wartime was "acceptable."

"But a question arises, if a meeting between a Ukrainian citizen and a Hungarian prime minister carries a national security risk, then how do they want to become members of the EU? But let's leave that for later."

The SBU said Poroshenko had planned to meet Orban, who maintains ties with Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin.

When asked about his latest talks with Putin in Beijing in October, Orban said:

"I found it natural that once we are in Beijing we should meet," Orban said, adding that he would have initiated the meeting himself, had the Russians not offered it.

Orban has been at odds with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on some issues related to Ukraine's EU membership bid.

All 27 EU states except Hungary agreed last week to start accession talks with Ukraine despite its invasion by Russia, bypassing Orban's objections by getting him to leave the room when leaders made the decision.

Poroshenko was president of Ukraine from 2014 to 2019.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than and Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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