Hungary’s Orban calls for EU-Ukraine ‘strategic partnership agreement’

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday suggested the European Union should sign a “strategic partnership agreement” with Ukraine rather than begin membership talks.

The 27 heads of EU member states will meet for a crucial summit this month to decide whether to accept the European Commission’s recommendation that the bloc open membership talks with Kyiv as soon as its final conditions are met.

All 27 nations must be unanimous in order to begin the process, but Hungary has said it would reject the proposal in its current form. Orban, who maintains close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, reportedly said in a state radio interview on Friday that he did not believe it would be possible for the EU to assess the consequences of Ukraine’s membership.

“I will represent the view that the EU should first sign a strategic partnership agreement with Ukraine,” Orban said, according to a Reuters translation.

“This could last for up to 5-10 years, let’s bring them closer, as the gap is too wide now. Let’s give time for us to work together and when we see that we can work together, then let’s bring up the issue of membership.”

Elliot Smith

Zelenskyy urges faster fortification of frontline areas

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday called for quicker fortifications in key battlegrounds that face assaults from Russian forces, particularly in eastern Ukraine.

“In all major sectors, we need to boost and accelerate the construction of structures,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address, according to a translation, after touring Ukrainian positions in the northeast that have been trying to repel recent Russian advances and recapture certain areas.

In particular, he cited the need for stronger defenses in Avdiivka, Maryinka and in other parts of the Donetsk region, along with various defensive lines in the Kharkiv and Kherson areas.

– Elliot Smith

Ukraine shoots down 18 Russian drones; Russia destroys navy vessel without crew

The Ukrainian air force said on its Telegram channel on Friday that it shot down 18 out of 25 attack drones launched from Russia towards eastern and southern Ukraine overnight, along with one of two guided cruise missiles.

In a Google-translated report, Russia’s navy said early Friday morning that it destroyed a Ukrainian navy vessel without crew that was heading towards Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

CNBC was not able to independently verify each side’s claims.

– Elliot Smith

Germany’s Scholz stresses ‘unwavering solidarity’ with Ukraine on call with Zelenskyy

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz discussed the latest political, military and humanitarian situation in Ukraine in a phone call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday, the German government said in a statement.

Scholz told the Ukrainian president that Germany would continue to support Ukraine along with European and international partners.

Scholz also reiterated Germany’s “ongoing and unwavering solidarity” with Ukraine and said that its “future lies in the European Union,” according to the statement.

Zelenskyy discussed recent Russian attacks on Ukrainian civil energy infrastructure and thanked Germany for its military support.

— Jenni Reid

Top Russian court bans LGBT movement as ‘extremist’

Russia’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that LGBT activists should be designated as extremists, in a move that representatives of gay and transgender people fear will lead to arrests and prosecutions.

A Reuters reporter in court heard it announce that it had approved a request from the justice ministry to recognise what it called “the international LGBT social movement” as extremist and to ban its activities.

The move is part of a pattern of increasing restrictions in Russia on expressions of sexual orientation and gender identity, including laws outlawing the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relations and banning legal or medical changes of gender.

TOPSHOT – LGBT activists take part in a May Day rally in Saint Petersburg on May 1, 2018. (Photo by OLGA MALTSEVA / AFP) (Photo by OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images)

Olga Maltseva | Afp | Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin, expected shortly to announce that he will seek a new six-year term in March, has long sought to promote an image of Russia as a guardian of traditional moral values in contrast with a decadent West.

In a speech last year, he said the West was welcome to adopt “rather strange, in my view, new-fangled trends like dozens of genders, and gay parades” but had no right to impose them on other countries.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters before the court decision was announced that the Kremlin was “not following” the case and had no comment on it. The Supreme Court took around five hours to issue its ruling, after opening its session at 10 a.m. local time.

— Reuters

Lavrov tells the OSCE it’s ‘on the brink of an abyss’

SKOPJE, NORTH MACEDONIA – NOVEMBER 30: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends the 30th Ministerial Council of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Skopje, North Macedonia on November 30, 2023. (Photo by Umeys Sulejman/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Anadolu | Anadolu | Getty Images

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Thursday that the group was “on the brink of an abyss.”

Attending the OSCE’s latest meeting in Skopje, North Macedonia, Lavrov accused the 57-member security-oriented organization that it was “essentially being turned into an appendage of NATO and the European Union.”

“The organization, let’s admit it frankly, is on the brink of an abyss,” he said, according to comments reported by Interfax.

“A simple question arises: does it make sense to invest efforts in reviving it?,” he asked, questioning the equality of member countries and approach to regional security problems.

So far, he said, “there are many more questions than answers.”

“But in the meantime, life does not stand still, the processes of Eurasian integration and equal cooperation based on an honest balance of interests are developing on our continent in constructive formats, regardless of the OSCE’s ever deeper immersion in the imposed confrontational agenda,” Lavrov said.

Ukraine and the Baltic nations boycotted this year’s OSCE meeting because of Lavrov’s attendance. The OSCE has also largely been hamstrung when it comes to decision-making because Russia has used its vetoes to thwart the process, putting its future into question.

— Holly Ellyatt

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