Viktor Orban sent a letter to the EU leadership, where he spoke about Putinʼs confidence in the defeat of Ukraine

Kostia Andreikovets

Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban sent a non-public letter to the leadership of the European Union, in which he spoke about the confidence of the leader of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin in the defeat of Ukraine in the war.

The investigative project Systema and Radio Svoboda got acquainted with this letter. Its authenticity has been confirmed by several EU officials.

The letter, dated July 5, was sent from Azerbaijan, where Orban had traveled to after meeting with Putin in Moscow, and was addressed to European Council President Charles Michel and leaders of EU member states.

In the letter, Orban writes that during his trips to Ukraine and Russia, he did not speak on behalf of the entire European Union, but only wanted to learn about the positions of the parties. He slightly mentions the position of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, but conveys Putinʼs views in detail — he is sure that "time is on the side of the Russian forces."

In the conversation with the Hungarian Prime Minister, Putin did not mention Russian losses at the front, but spoke a lot about his calculations of Ukrainian losses. He told Orban about 40-50 thousand per month. He previously voiced the same numbers publicly.

In February 2024, Zelensky said that Ukraine had lost 31 000 soldiers killed. Then, for the first time, he mentioned the losses, but he did not disclose the number of wounded and missing.

Orban writes that Putin was "shocked" that Zelensky rejected the offer of a temporary ceasefire. However, he fears that Ukraine may regroup its troops in the event of a pause. Orban also writes that Putin often refers to the so-called Istanbul agreements of 2022 — he wants any future agreements to be based on them.

According to Orban, Putin did not answer a direct question about his attitude to Zelenskyʼs peace plan and the Peace Summit, which was held in Switzerland in June at the initiative of Ukraine. The leader of the Russian Federation only spoke again about the Istanbul communique, which was never agreed upon.

At the end of the letter, Orbán summarizes that Europe should show an autonomous initiative, since everyone in the USA is too busy with the election campaign.

"If we cannot contain or stop this process, then in the next two months we will witness more dramatic losses and military events on the front lines than ever before," Orbán asserts.

What are the Istanbul agreements?

On March 1, 2024, The Wall Street Journal published the terms of the peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine, which were discussed at the beginning of the war in Istanbul. On June 15, 2024, The New York Times newspaper published almost the same document.

Here are the highlights of this failed deal:

  • Russia wanted to keep Crimea, but the fate of other territories was proposed to be decided at a personal meeting between Zelensky and Putin.
  • Moscow asked to lift the Ukrainian sanctions, which have been in effect since 2014, and to call on Western partners to take the same step.
  • The draft agreement provided for limiting the number of Ukrainian troops and the number of military equipment. Here, the parties categorically disagreed: Moscow wanted no more than 100 000 troops (Armed Forces + National Guard), and Kyiv — no less than 250 000. The parties also did not agree on the range of the weapon — 40 kilometers against 280.
  • The clause on the protection of Ukraine in the event of a future attack became the biggest problem. In this case, the guarantor countries — Great Britain, China, Russia, the USA, and France — should have come to Ukraineʼs aid, but there is an interesting nuance here: Moscow wanted such aid to be coordinated by all the guarantors. That is, Russia could attack Ukraine and prohibit the guarantors from providing support.

After such points and "proposals", according to a member of the Ukrainian negotiating team, Kyiv lost interest in negotiations.