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Paul Ronzheimer is deputy editor-in-chief of BILD and a senior journalist writing for Axel Springer, the parent company of POLITICO.
BUDAPEST — Vladimir Putin’s handling of the mercenary rebellion shows the Russian president remains firmly in control, Viktor Orban said in an interview, putting the Hungarian leader, once again, at odds with his Western partners.
“When it’s administered within 24 hours, it’s a sign of strength,” Urban said. Axel SpringerPolitico’s parent company.
Referring to the recent insurrection of the Wagner paramilitary group, which put troops and armored vehicles perilously close to Moscow, the Hungarian prime minister said he “didn’t see any great importance to this event,” and, separating him from several Western officials who remained wary, said the uprising exposed Putin’s weaknesses.
“Putin is the president of Russia,” said Orban, who has cultivated a close personal relationship with Putin. “So if someone has speculation that they might fail or be replaced, [they] They do not understand the Russian people and the Russian power structures.
Last weekend’s thwarted Wagner rebellion, which brought Russia to the brink of civil war, has led to mounting questions in Western countries about how much damage has been done to Putin’s regime.
The uprising ended with a deal struck between the Kremlin, Wagner, and Belarus, whereby anyone who participated in the attempted coup could escape prosecution and Wagner’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin could go into exile in Belarus.
But for Orban, Putin’s rule has remained intact despite the rebellion, which posed perhaps the biggest challenge to his 23-year presidency in power.
“Russia works differently than we do,” said the Hungarian Prime Minister. But the structures in Russia are very stable. It is built on the army, intelligence and police. … It is a country with a militaristic and mental orientation.”
He added, “They are not as a country as Germany or Hungary. It is a different world. The structure is different, the strength is different, and the stability is different.”
This rhetoric fits with the way the Hungarian leader has dealt with Russia since the war began. He was Slow to condemn Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and has since adhered to a pro-Russian stance in the conflict, an approach that serves Orban’s domestic political purposes and helps preserve a longstanding relationship with the Kremlin.
Ukraine can not win
In the interview, Orban reiterated his argument that it would be “impossible” for Ukraine to win the war against Russia.
For months now, the Hungarian leader has essentially argued that Ukraine should stop trying to take back Russian-occupied territories and seek a negotiated settlement — a position that has left him mostly isolated within the Western alliance.
The Prime Minister said: “Ukraine is no longer a sovereign country.” “They don’t have money. They don’t have weapons. They can only fight because we support them – I mean the West.”
Echoing some of his earlier statements, Orban said that “time” was “on the Russian side, not on the Ukrainian side” — adding that Kiev’s main European partners, Germany and France, were unable to broker a peace agreement.
Orban said that the “only way” to end the war was to “negotiate between the Russians and the Americans and ensure peace for Europe”.
EU asylum package is ‘attraction factor’
Orban also went after his EU counterparts on another issue where he was largely isolated – immigration.
European Union countries recently reached an agreement, over Hungary’s objections, to reform how migrants are treated and transported within the bloc. Orban has predictably criticized the agreement, which includes a procedure allowing countries to either take in people or pay €20,000 for each migrant they don’t accept. EU leaders are set on She will touch on the subject later this week at a summit in Brussels.
The right-wing leader argued that these new burden-sharing rules across EU countries would create an incentive for migrants to embark on dangerous journeys to Europe. He vowed that Hungary would refuse to pay the fee for not taking in the relocated migrants, and insisted that his country was already spending taxpayers’ money to “defend Europe’s borders”.
The situation foreshadows another looming battle between Brussels and Budapest over immigration. Recently, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Hungary had breached EU law with its policy of forcing some asylum seekers to submit their applications in foreign countries.