Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán received harsh criticism over his bonding with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Beijing on October 17-18 but Budapest has not taken it lying down.
The Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas in particular did not hold back, saying on October 18 that seeing pictures of Orban with Putin was “very, very unpleasant” given Budapest’s past history with Moscow.
“How can you shake a criminal’s hand, who has waged a war of aggression, especially coming from a country that has a history like Hungary has?” Kallas said.
“It is not so distant past what happened in Hungary, what the Russians did there,” she added, referring to the Russian Communist occupation of the country and the resulting Hungarian uprising.
The Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó retaliated on October 19.
On Facebook, he wrote: “I would like to respectfully point out that this is the same Kaja Kallas whose husband was recently revealed to have had a stake in a company that continued to supply raw materials to a Russian factory, despite the ongoing conflicts, following the outbreak of the war.
“Hypocrisy at its finest.”
Stark Logistics, the company in which Kallas’ husband Arvo Hallik owns a 24 per cent stake, has allegedly generated nearly €30 million in sales in Russia since Moscow invaded Ukraine.
This fact only became public knowledge at the end of August and is damaging Kallas in her own country. Despite winning the Estonian parliamentary elections earlier this year, a survey in September showed 69 per cent of Estonians want her to resign over her husband’s activities.
It also became known that Kallas made a €350,000 loan to a company belonging to her husband to “make various financial investments”.
Hallik also filed a €1,500 claim against the author of an opinion article on the matter, which seemed to many to be a move to silence and intimidate the press.
The controversy hurts Kallas as business deals with Russia and potentially intimidating journalists does not paint her in a good light. She had been mooted as a possible head of NATO and looked like she had a bright future in European circles. It is not clear if that still is the case.
Orbán had participated in the summit on the Chinese infrastructure project New Silk Road at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.
There, he met Putin, becoming the first European Union leader to do so since an international arrest warrant was issued against Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.