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Slovakia and Hungary threatened to scupper EU unity on providing military support to Ukraine, as the bloc’s leaders gathered in Brussels for a summit where the conflict in the Middle East was taking centre stage.

The EU’s financial and military support has been critical in Kyiv’s 20-month-long defence against Russian aggression, but Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán and his newly elected Slovak counterpart Robert Fico have spoken out against continued military aid, which requires unanimity.

Fico said on Thursday ahead of the EU summit that his government would not vote in favour of any new measures to help Ukraine or sanctions against Russia without a full assessment of how they could affect Slovakia.

“This is a very worrisome development and changes the dynamic,” said a senior EU official involved in projects to supply weapons to Ukraine. “It could be a real problem.”

EU military support to Ukraine is delivered bilaterally but can be refunded by a Brussels-managed fund financed by member states, which requires unanimous support to top it up. The last increase to that fund took place in January, and subsequent attempts to top it up have been blocked by Hungary’s veto.

Budapest now has an ally in the newly elected government in Bratislava.

Orbán last week became the first EU leader to meet Vladimir Putin since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against the Russian president.

The Hungarian leader defended his meeting with Putin and said he was “proud” of his country’s engagement with Russia. Arriving at the EU summit, Orbán said Hungary had a “clear and transparent policy” of engagement with Russia and Putin. “We would like to keep open all the communication lines to the Russians, otherwise there will be no chance of peace,” he said.

Baltic leaders expressed concern at the prospect of EU support for Ukraine fraying.

Lithuania’s president Gitanas Nausėda described Orbán’s interaction with Putin as “regrettable”.

“It is really more than strange to see that we start to flirt with a regime that is committing very cruel atrocities on the territory of Ukraine,” he told journalists, adding that it was sending a “very wrong message” not only to Ukraine but to other EU partners.

Estonia’s prime minister Kaja Kallas said a lack of effort from some member states in jointly producing ammunition for Ukraine risked giving “a signal that we are not taking defence seriously enough”.

“I’m very worried that some are giving out signals that we can’t do this and we are not even aspiring to do this,” she said, referring to meeting Ukraine’s defence needs.

With tensions and conflicts rising, Kallas said, “we don’t have time to think about this, but we have to do steps in order to fulfil our promises to Ukraine, but also to be more ready ourselves to really strengthen our own defence”.

Aside from the conflict between Israel and Hamas and its possible ramifications for Europe, and the war in Ukraine, the EU’s 27 leaders will also discuss migration and a proposed increase to the bloc’s shared budget.

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