Orbán, Schröder and Berlusconi only European politicians on Putin’s bad or good list – POLITICO

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and former heads of government Silvio Berlusconi and Gerhard Schröder are the only European politicians to have received Christmas and New Year greetings from Vladimir Putin this year, according to a statement released by the Kremlin on Friday.

Putin’s message to Orbán, the only EU leader to receive well wishes, remained deliberately vague. « Despite the difficult international situation, relations between the countries have maintained a positive trend, » the statement said about Hungary. « The President of Russia also confirmed his intention to continue joint work on topical issues on the bilateral agenda. »

Alongside Orbán, Putin sent warmer messages to Alexander Lukashenko and Aleksandar Vučić, his Belarusian and Serbian counterparts, and Moscow’s two closest friends on the European continent.

« Thanks to close allied cooperation, Russia and Belarus have weathered the difficulties and hardships of the past year with honor » and succeeded in « effectively resisting unprecedented political pressure and sanctions, » the statement said.

Belarus was used by Russia as a base to launch its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February, and both countries are under international sanctions, crippling their economies.

This year’s edition of the Kremlin’s traditional list of « congratulations » to heads of state and government is considerably shorter than last year’s, reflecting Russia’s isolated position on the international stage. However, some former heads of state are still on the right side of the list.

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, now a senator and member of the coalition led by Giorgia Meloni, was congratulated. He made headlines last October over leaked tapes in which he bragged about his friendship with Putin.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who this summer was fired from his parliamentary office in disgrace over his ties to Putin, may find comfort in seeing him appear on Putin’s list again this year.

In 2021, Putin sent greetings to more than a dozen European heads of state and government, including those from Italy, Germany and France.

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