Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called on Kyiv on Tuesday to strive for a "swift ceasefire" in Ukraine, which could lead to negotiations with Russia to end over two years of conflict. Orban made this request during an unexpected visit to Ukraine, marking his first trip despite his criticism of Western support for Kyiv.

Standing alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky, Orban suggested to the press that a rapid ceasefire might accelerate peace talks, emphasizing that such a ceasefire should be "time-limited". Unlike many European leaders, Orban had not previously visited Kyiv since Russia's invasion in February 2022, and has openly criticized Europe's financial and military assistance, temporarily obstructing a 50-billion-euro aid package.

The nationalist leader has also criticized the EU's decision to initiate formal membership talks with Kyiv, although he abstained rather than vetoed the move, and has been accused of maintaining friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Orban, who has been in power since 2010, met with Putin in October 2023 at a regional summit in Beijing, becoming the first EU leader to do so since the war began.

Hungary openly opposes sanctions against Russia but has so far only sought to delay, rather than block, the EU's measures. The Kremlin described Orban as a "tough" politician who vigorously defends his country's interests, although it expected little outcome from his visit. This visit occurred just after Hungary assumed the EU's rotating presidency, giving the country significant influence over the bloc's agenda and priorities.

Orban plans to report his discussions with Zelensky to EU prime ministers to facilitate necessary European decisions. Zelensky highlighted the symbolic timing of the visit, coinciding with Hungary's EU presidency, emphasizing the importance of achieving a just peace for Ukraine. Despite sharing a border with Ukraine, Hungary has accepted significantly fewer refugees than other EU members.

Orban's visit took place as Russian forces killed one person and wounded seven in the southern Kherson region, which is partially occupied. Relations between Orban and Zelensky have been tense since the war began. In December, Zelensky had a "frank" conversation with Orban at the inauguration of Argentine President Javier Milei, and they were later seen in a tense exchange at an EU Council meeting.

Hungary's dual membership in the EU and NATO gives it substantial influence over Western support for Ukraine, allowing it to hinder, delay, or block initiatives and funding. Zelensky has acknowledged the importance of Hungary's position in achieving peace and regional security. Negotiations for a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders have been ongoing for months. Tensions between Kyiv and Budapest predate the Russian invasion, with Hungary expressing discontent over Ukraine's language policies.