Back in March, Ukraine's President Zelensky during a virtual address shamed Hungary's Viktor Orban, calling him out in a speech, saying "Listen, Viktor, do you know what is happening in Mariupol?" - and adding: "I want to be open once and for all you should decide for yourself, who you are for."
But Friday was Orban's turn to send the message back, in a bit of a snub at an EU summit in Brussels that has grabbed the attention of some Western media outlets as well as commentators online. Friday marked Zelensky's third stop on a two-day tour through European capitals, a first since the Russian invasion began. Zelensky was greeted coldly by Orban, seen among the only EU leaders refusing to clap as Ukraine's president jointed them on stage...
⚡️Orban is the only EU summit participant who did not applaud Zelensky pic.twitter.com/Q17lHSznrM— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) February 9, 2023
Germany's Chancellor Scholz had said Wednesday night while alongside Zelensky and Macron in Paris that "It is a sign of solidarity. Ukrainians are part of the European family."
But apparently PM Orban doesn't think so, or at least his refusal to laud and celebrate the Ukrainian president as other EU leaders are doing has come through loud and clear. In the above clip, Romania's President Klaus Iohannis isn't clapping either, but he does have a smile on his face and appears pleased to see Zelensky.
But Orban hasn't been shy of late in his warnings that Kiev is dragging Western Europe into a dangerous armed confrontation with nuclear-armed superpower Russia. As one American journalist recorded of Orban's words given to a group of foreign correspondents at the end of last month...
"We are in big, big trouble," he said, of the West. If Russia's coming spring offensive proves successful, then the NATO countries are going to be faced with the question of do we send in soldiers to fight for Ukraine? This is not something Orban thinks the American people are considering, but it is front to mind among a growing number of Europeans, whose countries stand to be devastated if war spreads.
Ukraine was of course outraged at such warnings, while it continues to lobby the West for more and more tanks, longer-range missiles, and especially advanced fighter jets.
Zelensky on Thursday continued to urge that his country be fast-tracked into NATO while it is fighting the "most anti-European force" in the world.
But as one observer comments, the whole meeting resulted in little other than symbolism:
Reporting from Brussels, FRANCE 24’s Dave Keating said Ukrainian President Zelensky was "hitting the same themes" on European unity and values during the press conference following his European Council meeting.
But the Ukrainian president did get some tough questions from journalists at the end, when he was asked if there were any specific deliverables promised during his meetings in Brussels and in Paris last night, noted Keating.
French leader Zelensky's invitation to dinner at the Elysee Palace before the EU summit caused a split - Italian Prime Minister George Meloni said it was inappropriate.— John Carter (@JohnEdgarCarter) February 9, 2023
Orban didn't seem too fussed about it either. He ignored Zelenskiy's appearance. pic.twitter.com/OHKFc9v8rl
Keating emphasized that "President Zelensky didn’t want to sound overly negative," and added: "We always knew there wasn’t going to be a big deliverable. This was very much about symbolism."