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Hungary's Orban congratulates Russia's Putin on re-election

FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during an economic forum in Budapest

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election despite condemnation of the vote by many Western governments.

The European Union, of which Hungary is a member, said the March 15-17 election had been held "in a highly restricted environment exacerbated also by Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine." Some EU ministers called the vote a sham.

But Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltan Kovacs said Orban had, in a letter to Moscow, "congratulated Vladimir Putin on his re-election, noting that the cooperation between Hungary and Russia, based on mutual respect, enables important discussions even in challenging geopolitical contexts."

"PM Orban affirmed Hungary's commitment to peace and readiness to intensify cooperation in sectors not restricted by international law, underlining the importance of dialogue in fostering peaceful relations," Kovacs wrote on X.

Hungary cultivates closer ties with Russia than other EU states. Last October, Orban said he was "proud" of his contacts with Putin, whom he met in China despite EU efforts to isolate Moscow for waging war on Ukraine.

Hungary said on Thursday it would not join a Czech-led ammunition initiative to procure and send weapons to Ukraine.

While Western governments lined up on Monday to condemn Putin's landslide, China, India and North Korea congratulated him on extending his rule by a further six years.

(Reporting by Boldizsar Gyori, Writing by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)