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With Viktor Orban in China pushing cease-fire, Russian missiles slam Ukraine

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban made a surprise visit Monday to Beijing, where Chinese leader Xi Jinping called for a global effort to push Russia and Ukraine toward a “cease-fire” and praised Orban’s diplomatic initiatives — a powerful demonstration of how Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin are seeking to create a multipolar world order not dominated by the United States.

As Xi Jinping welcomed Orban to the Chinese capital, Russian missiles crashed into kyiv, Dnipro and other Ukrainian cities on Monday, killing at least 31 people, including two at a Kiev children’s hospital, and underscoring the vicious brutality of Putin’s war.

In response to the missile attack, but also apparently to the new diplomatic maneuvers, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for international pressure to stop Russian aggression. “The whole world must show all its determination to finally put an end to Russian strikes,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram. “Murders are what Putin brings. Only together can we bring real peace and security.”

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on Telegram that it carried out a major missile attack on Ukraine on Monday, but insisted that the targets were “Ukrainian military industry facilities” and “air bases.”

Orban’s visit to China follows trips to kyiv and Moscow last week, just days after Hungary took over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. His foray into the peace process has drawn criticism in the West, where he is trying to pressure kyiv to cede territory that Moscow seized by force.

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In Brussels, officials have dismissed Orban’s efforts, saying he is not authorized to conduct diplomatic activities for the EU. “It must be clear that he only represents his own country,” said one EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer stressed that Viktor Orban was acting alone. “He has no mandate to represent the EU during these visits,” he said.

But Putin, welcoming Orban to Moscow last week, pointedly discussed Hungary’s EU presidency, and in a sign of the new multipolar dimension of geopolitics, the Hungarian prime minister’s visit to Beijing came just hours before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Moscow for a state visit, his first since Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

In a statement before leaving New Delhi on Monday, Modi hailed “his friend Vladimir Putin” and “the special and privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia.” After landing, Russian and Indian media showed Modi, wearing a bright turquoise vest, arriving at his Moscow hotel and greeted by Indian dancers and supporters waving Indian flags.

India’s purchases of Russian oil, which have increased 20-fold since 2021, have helped Moscow withstand tough Western economic sanctions imposed in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

With his visit to Moscow, Modi, re-elected last month, sought to signal his autonomy even as the Biden administration has sought to court the Indian leader.

“Mr. Putin would like to make it clear to the public that India is a friend, that all this talk about isolating Russia is empty talk, that not everyone is under the thumb of the US-led West, and that the asymmetric but multipolar world has arrived,” said Nandan Unnikrishnan, director of the Eurasian program at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank. “India would recognize that this is a multipolar world, even if it is slightly tilted toward the West.”

The presence of Viktor Orban and Xi Jinping represented a diplomatic triumph for Putin, who has long called for such a multipolar, non-Western world order. Putin insisted that the West, particularly the United States and Britain, was responsible for prolonging his war in Ukraine by failing to pressure kyiv to give in to its territorial demands.

Upon his arrival in China, Orban posted a photo of himself with the caption: “Peace Mission 3.0 #Beijing.”

During his meeting with Viktor Orban in Beijing, Xi Jinping said he appreciated the Hungarian leader’s efforts to find a political solution to the war in Ukraine, which he called a “conflict.”

“China and Hungary share the same fundamental positions and are working in the same direction,” he said.

“Only when all major powers exert positive energy instead of negative energy can the dawn of a ceasefire in this conflict emerge as soon as possible,” Xi said, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. China, Xi added, “has actively called for peace and advocated talks in its own way.”

People clear debris and dig through rubble after a Russian strike hit a key children’s hospital in kyiv on July 8. (Video: Reuters)

In an interview with German newspaper Bild, Orban insisted that Ukraine could never defeat Russia. “There is no solution to this conflict on the front,” he said, adding: “Putin cannot lose if you consider soldiers, equipment and technology. Defeating Russia is a difficult idea to imagine. The probability that Russia will actually be defeated is completely incalculable.”

Ukraine, for its part, has insisted that it cannot accept any ceasefire while Russian forces occupy about a fifth of its territory and missiles and bombs are falling on its cities. Zelensky has called for a complete withdrawal of Russian troops, including at a “peace” summit in Switzerland last month, which China deliberately did not attend. Russia was not invited.

Beijing has rejected criticism from Ukraine, Europe and the United States over its decision not to attend a peace summit in Switzerland, arguing that it cannot take part in negotiations that exclude Russia.

China, alongside Brazil, presented its own six-point proposal, for which Chinese officials said they had won support from dozens of countries in the developing world.

From Beijing’s perspective, Western countries have been an obstacle to direct negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, said Cui Hongjian, an international relations expert at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Beijing believes it “needs to make its voice heard and have a position,” Cui said.

China’s supposed neutrality has come under increasing pressure as the war drags on for three years and China’s trade with Russia booms, alongside mounting evidence that Chinese companies provide economic and indirect support to Russia’s military-industrial base.

In their public statements and appearances, Putin and Xi have increasingly shown their alignment in their shared ambition to reshape the global order and weaken U.S. influence.

Xi and Putin met last week in Kazakhstan, where Putin spoke of progress toward a “just multipolar world order” at the annual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, one of several multilateral groups that both powers have used to expand their influence.

At that meeting, Putin suggested resuming the negotiations that took place in Istanbul in 2022, shortly after the Russian invasion, when Ukraine was in a weak position. In the years since, each side has suffered tens of thousands of casualties and Russia has made only marginal progress toward illegally annexing four regions in southeastern Ukraine, in addition to Crimea, which it seized by force in 2014.

On Monday in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow supported diplomatic efforts.

“President Vladimir Putin is a strong supporter of the need for political and diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the Ukrainian conflict,” Peskov said.

Shepherd reported from Taipei, Taiwan, and Shih from New Delhi. Serhii Korolchuk from kyiv, Kate Brady in Berlin, Emily Rauhala in Washington and Natalia Abbakumova in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.

News Source : www.washingtonpost.com
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