WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The prime minister of Poland, one of Europe's most critical voices on Russia, held what she called "honest and difficult talks" on Thursday with her Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban, who faces sharp criticism in the West for cultivating closer ties with Russia.
The meeting in Warsaw with Poland's Ewa Kopacz was part of an effort by Orban to show that Hungary's growing closeness to Russia does not mean his country is turning its back on its Western alliance partners.
It comes two days after Orban welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin in Budapest, where he and Orban agreed to a new gas deal.
Many of Orban's critics in Hungary and abroad were dismayed that the leader of the European Union and NATO member nation would give Putin that honor.
Polish commentators expressed dismay that Putin was given a platform in Budapest to lash out against Ukraine as Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine were completing their conquest of the rail hub of Debaltseve.
Kopacz also made her displeasure clear.
European unity and "the condemnation of aggression is a fundamental thing for us," Kopacz said at a brief news conference alongside Orban. "In honest and difficult talks I told this to Prime Minister Orban."
She compared the fate of Ukraine today to Poland and Hungary during the Soviet era and recalled how Soviet troops crushed the Hungarian uprising of 1956.
"I am proud that both of our nations, after years of slavery and years of dictatorship brought from the east, are today members of the Western community," Kopacz said. "Today we can decide our own fates. I think that a great European nation like Ukraine also has the right to decide its own fate."
Orban did not comment on his relationship with Russia, but said he supported the cease-fire agreement for Ukraine hammered out last week in Minsk.
"Hungary and Poland always supported each other and always supported freedom," Orban said. "Hungary will support and defend to the very last this European unity built around the Minsk agreement."