Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the first time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24th. The two leaders held a discussion by phone on Tuesday, June 21st.
The meeting focused on Ukraine’s European integration, the reception of war refugees and other areas of Hungarian-Ukrainian cooperation, Bertalan Havasi, Deputy Secretary of State for the Prime Minister’s Office, told the Hungarian News Agency.
Orbán emphasized to Zelensky that he supported Ukraine’s bid for EU membership, as well as the removal of bureaucratic obstacles to Ukraine’s accession. He assured Zelensky that he would take this position at the upcoming EU summit in Brussels.
Orbán also talked about Hungary’s record of taking in Ukrainian refugees. Hungary has now received nearly 800,000 such people fleeing war in their own country, he told Zelensky, adding that Hungary is prepared to do what it can to help even more Ukrainian students.
In other areas of interest to both countries, the Hungarian premier said his national government was ready for further energy cooperation and to assist in transporting Ukrainian grain by rail.
Zelensky thanked the Hungarian people for their help on behalf of the Ukrainian people.
In a virtual address early Tuesday, June 21st, Zelensky touted the progress Ukraine had made on the European and world stage and reiterated its readiness to join the EU.
“We prove every day that we are already part of a united [Europe],” the Ukrainian president said.
Additionally, he said that he had secured an agreement with Poland to increase the capacity of the Krakovets’-Korczowa checkpoint by 50%, which would allow for greater import-export flows across the border. He also announced that the Three Seas Initiative, a network of states along the Baltic, Adriatic, and Black Seas, had decided to grant Ukraine a status that would lead to full membership.
Moreover, Zelensky stated that he had addressed the African Union and assured African leaders that Ukraine would be able to export grain in sufficient quantities to avert a food crisis in Africa and Asia.
He blamed Russia for the “artificial” shortage caused by its blockade of the Black Sea, Ukraine’s main export route to Africa and Asia.
“In general, we are expanding the capabilities of our state,” Zelensky said. “Like all powerful European countries, we need our own policies towards Africa, Latin America, South-East Asia and other parts of the world that were previously left out of proper attention of Ukraine’s foreign policy.”
He described Russia as “nervous” ahead of Ukraine’s possible accession to the EU, proven by its increasing attacks and air strikes.
“As I predicted, Russia is very nervous about our activity,” he said. “Again, shelling of Kharkiv, Odesa, again attempts of brutal offensive actions in Donbas. This is an evil that can only be appeased on the battlefield.”
He also spoke by video conference at the International Festival of Creativity in Cannes in France on Monday, June 20th. He thanked the festival organizers for inviting him and said he would “do everything possible so that attention to Ukraine does not fade.”