Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán hit back at criticism of his country’s stance on the Russo-Ukrainian war on Sunday, accusing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of drawing on his past experience as an actor.
Zelensky sparked a heated debate with Hungary on Thursday when, during his now frequent pre-recorded video messages to Western leaders, he called on Orbán and Hungary to choose sides in the conflict.
In his address, Zelensky criticized Hungary for its neutrality, saying: “You (Hungarians) must decide whom to side with,” and directly asking the Hungarian prime minister: “Viktor, do you know what is happening in Mariupol?”
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Asked about Zelensky’s remarks in an interview on the Kossuth national radio station on Sunday morning, Orbán reminded Zelensky of Hungary’s humanitarian response to the country — Hungary has now processed over 350,000 Ukrainian refugees according to UNHCR data — but insisted the country’s position has not changed regarding its refusal to permit military aid to cross through its territory, and its opposition to a ban on Russian energy imports.
“What the Ukrainians are asking is nothing less than entirely stopping the Hungarian economy to again lose years of development and for the Hungarian economy to fall back to where it was eight to ten, or who knows how many years ago,” Orbán told listeners.
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When asked whether attending the EU summit he did not feel he was participating in a scripted scene, Orbán said: “I use the knowledge I accumulated in the field of law, and an actor lives and works with the knowledge accrued as an actor, and I see nothing out of the ordinary in that.”
Both Orbán and Zelensky are trained lawyers, gaining their degrees from the Budapest Eötvös Loránd University and Kryvyi Rih Insititue of Economics respectively.
Zelensky, however, has never worked in the field of law. Before his political career he worked in entertainment, his most prominent role being that of a teacher who became the Ukrainian president in the TV show “Servant of the People.”