Viktor Orbán adds Zelenskiy to his list of ‘overpowered’ opponents

In a defiant victory speech after his electoral landslide, Viktor Orbán reeled off those he perceived as opponents he had “overpowered”. It was a familiar list: “the left at home” – his catch-all phrase for political opponents across the spectrum – then “the international left, the bureaucrats in Brussels”, the “empire” of the Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist George Soros, the international media – and finally, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

While Zelenskiy is admired across the democratic world for his courageous wartime leadership, in Orbán’s Hungary he is just another opponent.

Orbán has condemned the war in Ukraine and supported EU sanctions, but refuses to send Ukraine weapons or even allow military aid to pass through his country, claiming such actions would drag Hungary into the war. Addressing all 27 EU leaders last month, Zelenskiy singled out Orbán, telling him to choose a side in Russia’s war on his country. “Viktor, do you know what’s going on in Mariupol?”그는 말했다, drawing a link between the horrors of the besieged city and the murder of Hungarian Jews during the second world war.

Asked about the speech in a softball radio interview, Orbán struck an insouciant tone, while championing himself as the defender of Hungarian interests. Dismissing Zelenskiy as “an actor who uses and works with the knowledge he has acquired”, he said he would not comply with any demands that would lead to “our sons dying in someone else’s war” and the “ruination” of Hungary’s economy. While Zelenskiy has repeatedly urged a no-fly zone, he has not called for western forces to enter the ground war.

Orbán’s supporters can afford to be less diplomatic. “Zelenskiy is attacking us now,” wrote one pro-government daily. A Fidesz MP, Gyula Budai, accused Zelenskiy of “openly interfering in the Hungarian election campaign”.

On the eve of Hungary’s election, Zelenskiy continued his criticism of his western neighbour, describing Orbán as “virtually the only one in 유럽 to openly support Mr Putin”. But Zelenskiy’s powerful words neither changed Hungary’s position, nor harmed Orbán at the ballot box.

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