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Ukraine's Zelenskiy says had 'frank' talk with Hungary's Orban


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© Reuters. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban greets Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the National Congress, in Buenos Aires, Argentina December 10, 2023. REUTERS/Matias Baglietto

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BUENOS AIRES/BUDAPEST (Reuters) -Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he had a “frank” conversation with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on the sidelines of the inauguration of Argentine President Javier Milei on Sunday.

“It was as frank as possible – and obviously, it was about our European affairs,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address posted on the Telegram channel early on Monday.

The meeting took place against a backdrop of Orban’s threatening to block more European Union financial support to Kyiv, his opposition of Ukraine’s entry to the bloc and the White House intensifying its push for Kyiv aid after Republicans blocked an emergency spending bill to fund the war.

Orban’s press chief Bertalan Havasi confirmed the meeting in an email that did not address whether the Hungarian leader would continue to oppose Ukraine’s entry to the European Union.

“With regards to Ukraine’s EU accession, Viktor Orban signalled that the member states of the European Union were continuously discussing the issue,” Havasi said in the email.

A video on the Argentine Senate’s YouTube channel showed Zelenskiy and Orban conversing for about 20 seconds as they mingled with other guests in the Argentine parliament, ahead of an EU summit on Dec. 14-15, set to decide whether to start membership talks with Ukraine.

Orban has repeatedly said he opposes starting talks now. Any decision to proceed has to be unanimous.

Orban has also threatened to block moves to give Kyiv 50 billion euros ($53.80 billion) in budget support through 2027, though a senior official said on Friday the EU would find ways to support Ukraine financially even if Hungary vetoed the move.

Zelenskiy said earlier he had spoken by telephone with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to coordinate their positions.

“We are counting on a positive decision regarding the allocation of 50 billion euros and the start of negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the EU,” he said in a post on Telegram.

“Europe must decisively defend its values and unity. I know that we can rely on the support of Madam President in this matter,” he added.

Zelenskiy was due to arrive in Washington on Monday for talks with U.S. President Joe Biden and U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson about the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine and the “vital importance” of continued U.S. aid to Kyiv.

($1 = 0.9294 euros)



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