Doha, Qatar – Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is often out of step with his Western allies regarding Ukraine, has said Kyiv’s troops are unlikely to win the war against Russia.
Speaking at the Qatar Economic Forum in Doha on Tuesday, he said the conflict which started 15 months ago can only be resolved by diplomacy.
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“Looking at the reality, the figures, the surroundings, the fact that NATO is not ready to send troops, it is obvious that there is no victory for the poor Ukrainians on the battlefield. That’s my position,” he said, offering an outlook few European leaders would publicly agree with, given their solidarity with Kyiv.
“The war can be stopped only if the Russians can make an agreement with the US. In Europe, we are not happy with that, but it’s the only way out.”
Hungary, which is an EU and NATO member, has been playing a balancing act since the war in Ukraine began.
Budapest has refused to break ties with Moscow and has opposed NATO enlargement. Like Turkey, Hungary has not yet ratified Sweden’s membership of the military alliance and Orban has laid out specific concerns on Ukraine’s NATO hopes.
A populist, the 59-year-old often heats up debates in Brussels whenever the bloc is tasked with making unanimous decisions on tougher sanctions against Russia or more financial and military aid to Ukraine.
Last week, Orban opposed sending more EU military aid to Ukraine after authorities in Kyiv put Hungary’s OTP Bank on a list of “war sponsors” and blacklisted the bank.
In Doha, Orban said that if Ukraine needs more money, Kyiv should respect Hungary and not sanction Hungarian companies.
He added that Budapest “does not belong to the mainstream European approach”.
“Hungary is in a unique position as Ukraine is not far away. We have ethnic minorities living in Ukraine and they are part of the war. They are conscripted, they are soldiers in the Ukrainian army and they die. So we lose lives – Hungarian lives – as well,” he said, referring to ethnic Hungarians within Ukraine.
“Our hearts are with the Ukrainians. We understand how much has happened,” he said. “But I am speaking here as a politician and the solution is to save lives.”
With reporting by Al Jazeera’s Hafsa Adil in Doha.