Putin Ally Orban Accuses EU of 'Atomic Bomb' on Economy in Russia Clash

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has accused the European Union of dropping "an atomic bomb" on Hungary's economy by trying to ban Russian oil imports because of its aggression in Ukraine.

Following in the footsteps of the United States, the EU is proposing an oil export ban on Russia, in its latest sanctions response to the Ukraine war. On Wednesday, the bloc said it plans to ban Russian oil imports within six months and refined products by the end of the year in its latest raft of economic sanctions. Some member countries, including Hungary are concerned about the economic impact of cutting Russian oil imports, something Europe has been extremely reliant on.

Speaking about the plans in an interview with Kossuth Radio on Friday morning, Orban said: "This is an atomic bomb they want to drop on the Hungarian economy."

He said if enacted, the oil ban would make petrol and diesel expensive.

Supporting Sanctions

Hungary's right-wing leader said that it would take years to transform the Hungarian energy system to not rely on Russian oil.

He said that Hungary couldn't support the European Commission's next planned sanctions on Russia in their full form. Orban said that the EU had already crossed a "red line" and insisted that Hungary must maintain its ability to veto the bloc's proposals, "because otherwise, we would lose all our friends in the EU."

"They have crossed this red line, coal may not affect Hungary. But they just keep coming, you have to stop here."

Although Orban said he could accept most of the latest sanctions packages the EU proposed, he drew the line on the oil embargo and the EU's intention to add Patriarch Kirill, the Russian Orthodox Church leader, to the sanctions list.

"We will not allow church leaders to be put on a sanctions list," he said.

Newsweek has contacted the EU for comment.

Orban has historically been a Putin ally, with the latter hailing the Hungarian Prime Minister's re-election in April. In his victory speech, Orban called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Brussels bureaucrats "opponents."

Speaking about whose side he is on in the Ukraine war in the Kossuth Radio interview, Orban said: "In such cases, the countries choose a side, but my perception, based on historical experience, is that one should not choose a side, but a position that is in Hungary's interests. We have such a position, peace."

Orban also spoke about the Russian missile strike on Transcarpathia, an area of Western Ukraine close to the border with Hungary, where Hungarians are the largest ethnic minority. The missile struck a train station that was funneling supplies from Europe and the West to Ukraine.

"We think whoever carries a gun also brings trouble on his own, especially when the party at war is his neighbor. Now they were shot in Transcarpathia because someone was preparing to transport weapons," Orban said.

"These will be shot out, so be it. Whoever brings weapons to Ukraine makes the people there a target. Within Ukraine, Transcarpathia is especially important."

Pope Francis said on May 3 that Orban had told him that Russia's invasion of Ukraine would be over by May 9, but that he was pessimistic. May 9 is Russia's "Victory Day" — which celebrates the 1945 surrender of Nazi Germany to allied forces, including the Soviet Union, each year.

Viktor Orban
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for the second day of an EU Summit on March 25, 2022, in Brussels, Belgium. Orban, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has accused the European Union of dropping “an atomic bomb” on Hungary’s economy by trying to ban Russian oil imports. Thierry Monasse/Getty