UK Defense Secretary backs de-escalation of Ukraine-Russia crisis

BUDAPEST: British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said on Monday that it was important to defuse the Ukrainian-Russian crisis because a war would lead to greater instability, higher fuel prices and migrant flows.

Wallace also expressed support for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s planned trip to Russia on Tuesday for talks with President Vladimir Putin, adding, “We need to defuse this and defend Ukraine’s right to sovereignty.”

Wallace said it was “important to point out to Putin that the very thing he fears, which is NATO’s greater proximity to Russia, would be the consequence of the invasion of Russia. ‘Ukraine… That’s why the UK offered NATO more ground forces, more preparedness as a deterrent effect.’

Hungarian Defense Minister Tibor Benko told the same press conference that there was no need at the moment to deploy foreign NATO troops to Hungary, an alliance member state that borders Ukraine to the northeast.

Benko said that the Hungarian government was not against the deployment of NATO troops in Central and Eastern European countries closer to Ukraine, but that Hungary was able “to accomplish this task by itself” on its territory.

“If a country is unable to do so on its own, it is its sovereign right to receive NATO forces,” he added.

Orban’s Hungary enjoys relatively good relations with Russia despite tensions between the alliance and Moscow over Ukraine.

Orban said on Friday he would seek to increase the amount of gas he receives from Russia during his talks with Putin in Moscow, after Hungary struck a new long-term gas supply deal with the Russian. Gazprom GAZP.MM in August.

Orban is also expected to discuss an ongoing expansion of Hungary’s Paks nuclear power plant, where Rosatom is building new reactors.

Moscow denies planning to attack Ukraine and demands security guarantees, including a promise from NATO never to let Kiev join the alliance.

(Reporting by Anita Komuves; Editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich)

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