Kaja Kallas: Viktor Orban's Putin handshake 'very, very unpleasant'

Kaja Kallas.
Kaja Kallas. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Images of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban shaking hands with Russia's Vladimir Putin made for "very, very unpleasant" viewing, Estonian premier Kaja Kallas (Reform) says.

Reuters reports that the recent interlude also mystified Kallas in the light of tumultuous events in Hungary which are still within living memory.

"It was very, very unpleasant to see that," told Reuters in an interview in Paris, where she had been meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

"How can you shake a criminal's hand, who has waged a war of aggression, especially coming from a country that has a history like Hungary has?" Kallas went on.

"It is not so distant past what happened in Hungary, what the Russians did there," Kallas added, referring to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, brutally crushed by Soviet troops.

After her meeting with President Macron, the prime minister also stressed the importance of not letting the situation in Ukraine fall off the radar in the light of the current Israel-Hamas war, crucial an issue though the latter also is, as well as in other flash-points or potential flash-points in the region, such as the Western Balkans and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Orban paid his homage to the Russian leader during talks in China earlier this week, telling the Russian leader that Hungary had never wanted to oppose Moscow, adding that his desire was to pick up the pieces of bilateral relations.

Hungary has been a key hold-out nation on Sweden's pending NATO accession, as well as on proposed road maps for Ukraine to do the same with both that organization and the EU.

Hungary and Ukraine share a border, and Budapest has said that a Hungarian-speaking minority located in the very far West of Ukraine encounters prejudicial treatment from Kyiv.

Reuters points out that The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Putin in March, accusing him of the war crime of illegal deportation of children from Ukraine.

The October-November 1956 Hungarian Uprising, led by Imre Nagy, saw over 3,000 deaths after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ordered the tanks in, to quell the "rebellion." Hungary was a part of the Warsaw Pact bloc of countries at a time when fellow finno-ugric nation Estonia was under full Soviet occupation. That the invasion coincided almost precisely with the Suez Crisis, which absorbed the attention of the U.K., France, the U.S. and other Western nations, was likely no coincidence at all.

Defense Committee chairman: Hungary could be Russia's Trojan horse in the EU and NATO

Kalev Stoicescu. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Chairman of the Riigikogu's National Defense Committee Kalev Stoicescu (Eesti 200) said Putin and Orban's relationship has reached a level where Hungary could become a "Trojan horse" for the EU and NATO.

"The friendship between Orban and Putin is more than a pragmatic relationship from which Hungary receives cheap Russian gas and nuclear energy, and Russia – in addition to business – maintains a partner in the European Union and NATO through which it can influence the foundations of the democratic world, for example by blocking aid to Ukraine," Stoicescu said.

The MP, a former international affairs expert at the ICDS think tank, said there is also an ideological connection that is based on maintaining power through undemocratic methods and the restoration of each country's great power status.

"What's missing is, metaphorically speaking, a photo of Orban and Putin posing like Brezhnev and Honnecker. Hungary will not refrain from actively engaging with Russia at any cost, essentially siding with the Kremlin," Stoicescu said.

"The risk is that Hungary could become a veritable Russian Trojan horse in EU and NATO, blocking key decisions aimed at strengthening European security and defense," he added.

ERR also asked Stoicescu to what extent classified NATO information is shared with Hungary and whether Russia could have access to them through Hungary.

"NATO and EU member states receive classified material and documents from the organization. Hungary is not known to share them with third countries," he said.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Helen Wright

Source: Reuters

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