February 25, 2024

(Bloomberg) — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban questioned whether Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which had led to hundreds of thousands of casualties, should be called a “war.”

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“This is a military operation,” Orban told reporters at an annual news conference in Budapest Thursday, using Russian President Vladimir Putin’s terminology. “There was no declaration of war between the two countries. When Russia declares war then there will be war.”

Orban has riled Hungary’s European Union and NATO allies by maintaining close relations with Russia and trying to undermine support for Ukraine, including by calling for economic sanctions against Moscow to be scrapped. Last week, Orban blocked the EU’s €50 billion ($54.8 billion) financial aid package for Ukraine, the only one of 27 EU government leaders to do so.

Read more: Orban Sees EU States Circumventing Hungary on Ukraine Aid

Orban met Putin in October in Beijing, the first EU leader to do so since an international arrest warrant was issued against the Russian president for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

At that meeting with Putin, he called Russia’s invasion “a military operation,” though he told reporters in Budapest on Thursday that he’s also willing to use the word “war,” including with the Russian president the next time they meet.

“We should be happy there’s no declaration of war because then there will be a general mobilization,” in Russia, Orban said. “I don’t wish that on anybody.”

–With assistance from Marton Kasnyik.

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