BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday he was not in a position to negotiate between Ukraine and Russia following media reports that he would travel to Moscow during the day to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Orban, a critic of Western military aid to Ukraine who has the warmest relations of any EU leader with Putin, said the fact that Hungary currently holds the bloc’s rotating presidency does not give him a mandate to negotiate on its behalf.

“I do not need a mandate as I do not represent anything,” Orban said on his regular Friday morning radio interview, without saying whether he would travel to Moscow later in the day.

“All I do is go to places where there is a war or threat of war that threatens the European Union and Hungary, or has a negative consequence on them, and ask questions,” he added.

Following Thursday’s media reports about an Orban visit, Charles Michel, the president of the council of EU leaders, said on social media that the “EU rotating presidency has no mandate to engage with Russia on behalf of the EU”.

Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as neither confirming nor denying the visit on Thursday. Hungarian government officials did not reply to questions for Reuters.

Earlier this week, Orban met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv and urged him to consider a ceasefire to accelerate an end to the war with Russia.

Orban said on Friday that he had asked Zelenskiy “three of four important questions” to find out how far Kyiv was “willing to go for peace”.

Orban visited Russia in 2022 without meeting Putin, and has met him in other countries.

(Reporting by Anita Komuves and Boldizsar Gyori; Editing by Helen Popper)

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