Deep divisions on Russia’s war in Ukraine evident at a meeting of 4 Central European countries

The prime ministers of Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary pose for a photo.
Prime Ministers Robert Fico of Slovakia, Donald Tusk of Poland, Petr Fiala of the Czech Republic and Viktor Orban of Hungary, from left, meet Tuesday in Prague.
(Petr David Josek / Associated Press)

Four Central European countries are deeply divided over the Russian war against Ukraine and how to resolve the conflict, the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia said on Tuesday.

The four post-communist countries form an informal grouping of European Union and NATO members known as the Visegrad Four.

While the Czech Republic and Poland are united in their support for Ukraine, including arms deliveries, Hungary and Slovakia have sharply different views.


“I think I can say there are differences among us,” said Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, who hosted the meeting in Prague.

“I won’t keep it secret, it wouldn’t make sense, that we differ in the views of the cause of the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the ways of solving it,” Fiala said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “is a war criminal; the only reason for the war in Ukraine is Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said. “Regardless of how strong a country Russia remains to be, the political, moral and historical assessment of what is going on today in Ukraine must be unequivocal.”

In a Ukrainian village, a woman wants only one thing: to find her husband, who disappeared shortly after Russia’s war on Ukraine started two years ago.

Feb. 24, 2024

Slovakia and Hungary have refused to give Ukraine arms and ammunition.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has said the West’s approach to the war is “an absolute failure.” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has forged close ties with Russia.

“I don’t believe in a military solution of the conflict in Ukraine,” Fico said. He said that the European Union should have a peace plan for the war.

Fico, a leftist populist, has previously repeated Russia’s narrative about the causes of the Ukraine war, including Putin’s unsupported claim that the current Ukrainian government runs a Nazi state from which ethnic Russians living in the country’s east needed protection.


He also opposes EU sanctions on Russia, and wants to block Ukraine from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He said no amount of Western weapons for Ukraine would change the course of the war.

“The war could end only by negotiations,” said Orban, a nationalist conservative populist. He said that the peace talks should begin “the sooner, the better.”

A Russian American woman from Los Angeles is held in Russia on treason charges, apparently over a donation to a charity for Ukraine.

Feb. 20, 2024

Fico and Orban didn’t say how talks could be held in the current situation.

“We know who’s the aggressor, we know who’s the victim,” Fiala said earlier in the day after a separate meeting with Tusk. “We’re clearly ready to strongly support Ukraine and to look for all possible ways of further boosting our support.”

Tusk said that it’s important “that in this region, quite complicated recently, there are two capital cities that speak in one voice practically on all issues. On Ukraine, on Russia’s aggression, on the responsibility for this tragedy, we have been speaking in one voice since the beginning of this conflict.”

Poland says it’s ready to contribute to a Czech plan to acquire ammunition that Ukraine badly needs from third countries outside the European Union.

Fiala and Tusk also welcomed Monday’s vote in Hungary’s parliament to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO, ending more than 18 months of delays that frustrated the alliance as it sought to expand in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.


The AP’s Monika Scislowska contributed to this report.