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Hungary's new president condemns Putin's 'aggression', plans trip to Warsaw

Hungary's new President Katalin Novak arrives to attend her inauguration ceremony at the Kossuth Square in Budapest, Hungary, May 14, 2022. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Hungary's President Katalin Novak at her inauguration ceremony on Saturday condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and said her first trip would take her to Poland, in an apparent gesture to mend relations with Warsaw.

Hungary's rejection of sending weapons shipments to neighbouring Ukraine and its opposition to a planned European Union embargo on Russian oil imports has weighed on relations between Budapest and Warsaw, whose two nationalist governments have been long-time allies in the EU.

Novak, a former Fidesz party lawmaker and ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, was elected to the largely ceremonial post of president in March, shortly before Orban won another landslide victory in elections on April 3.

Hungary's first woman president, Novak has served as deputy chair of Fidesz and was family affairs minister in Orban's previous government.

"On Tuesday, 17 May, I am travelling to Warsaw to meet the President of the Polish people. Mr. President, dear Andrzej (Duda), I thank you for the opportunity to talk as befits friends!," Novak said in her inauguration speech.

"We condemn Putin's aggression, the armed invasion of a sovereign state. We say eternally no to every effort aiming at the restoration of the Soviet Union," she added.

She said the war in Ukraine was also "fought against us peace -loving Hungarians", adding that Hungary demanded that war crimes be investigated and punished.

Orban has also condemned Russia's attack on Ukraine but has avoided personal criticism of President Vladimir Putin and has been strongly opposed to any sanctions on Russian energy.

Dependence on Russian oil in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia poses the biggest obstacle to an embargo deal that the European Commission, the EU executive, proposed in early May in response to Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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Dive Deeper:
Tensions over Hungary’s refusal to back more energy sanctions could see EU shelve ban on Russian oil
Brussels could shelve its plans for an embargo on Russia oil imports amid mounting tensions over the bloc’s attempts to…
EU insists Russia oil embargo will go ahead
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One man stands between Europe and a ban on Russian oil: Hungary's Viktor Orban
The move has to be adopted unanimously, and Hungary — with a state oil company dependent on Russian imports and…
Hungary's Orban hands ex-aide, finance minister economic challenge
Hungary's Prime Minister on Friday put former central banker Marton Nagy and finance minister Mihaly Varga in charge of tackling…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
EU’s Russia Sanctions Effort Slows over Oil Dependency
The European Union’s efforts to impose a new round of sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine appeared to…
EU ministers fail to persuade Hungary to sign up to Russian oil embargo
EU foreign ministers failed on Monday in their effort to pressure Hungary to lift its veto of a proposed oil…
Get all your news in one place