ISSN 2330-717X

Ukraine Pushes Back After Hungary’s Orban Attacks EU Sanctions

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(RFE/RL) — Ukraine has touted the effectiveness of international sanctions over Russia’s unprovoked invasion after Hungary’s leader criticized Europe for “shooting itself in the lungs” with ill-considered financial and economic punishments.

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Unprecedented sanctions on business, trade, and travel have been imposed by the European Union, the United States, and other governments since a simmering war with Russia-backed separatists was overtaken by tens of thousands of Russian troops pouring across the border into Ukraine in late February.

“It is not sanctions that are killing the European economy, but Russia’s hybrid war,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said on July 15.

Earlier in the day, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told an interviewer that if the sanctions aren’t rolled back they risk killing off the European economy.

“Initially I thought we had only shot ourselves in the foot, but now it is clear that the European economy has shot itself in the lungs, and it is gasping for air,” Orban told Hungarian radio.

He cited rising gas and fuel costs, and called the current situation “unbearable.”

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Orban predicted a “moment of change” in Brussels and said “the sanctions policy was based on wrong assumptions and it must be changed.”

Orban has expanded ties with Moscow while defiantly challenging Brussels in recent years, and he has pushed back hard in negotiations on Russian gas cutoffs with Hungary’s fellow EU members.

Moscow has responded to international sanctions with countersanctions and other measures including trying to force previously agreed payments for gas and other goods into rubles instead of dollars or euros.

Orban said the sanctions “don’t help Ukraine” and threaten to “kill off the European economy.”

“Let me remind you that [sanctions] were introduced in response to the full-scale war launched by Russia against our state, which has already claimed tens of thousands of Ukrainian lives, left hundreds of thousands of critical infrastructure facilities in ruins, and forced millions of people to leave their homes,” the Ukrainian ministry countered. “Sanctions help hold the aggressor state accountable for its crimes, as well as weaken its ability to continue waging war.”

Orban’s national populist Fidesz party won national elections by a wide margin in April to keep him in power for another four years, based in part on a strategy of handouts and caps on some essential goods like fuel.

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RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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